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I. Of Golden Walter and his Father ... I 
II. Golden Walter takes Ship to sail the Seas 6 

III. Walter heareth Tidings of the Death of his 

Father 12 

IV. Storm befalls the Bartholomew, and she is 

driven off her Course 20 

V. Now they come to a New Land ... 25 
VI. The Old Man tells Walter of himself. 

Walter sees a Shard in the Cliff-wall . 33 
VII. Walter comes to the Shard in the Rock- 
wall 42 

VIII. Walter wends the Waste 46 

IX. Walter happeneth on the first of those 

three Creatures 51 

X. Walter happeneth on another Creature in 

the Strange Land 57 

XL Walter happeneth on the Mistress ... 72 
XII. The Wearing of four Days in the Wood 

beyond the World 78 

XIII. Now is the Hunt up 89 

XIV. The Hunting of the Hart 99 

XV. The Slaying of the Quarry 107 

XVI. Of the King's Son and the Maid ... 113 
XVII. Of the House and the Pleasance in the 

Wood 121 




XVIII. The Maid gives Walter tryst ... 128 
XIX. Walter goes to fetch Home the Lion's 

Hide 132 

XX. Walter is bidden to another Tryst . . 141 
XXI. Walter and the Maid flee from the 

Golden House 148 

XXII. Of the Dwarf and the Pardon . . . 153 

XXIII. Of the peaceful Ending of that wild 

Day 1 60 

XXIV. The Maid tells of what had befallen 

her 165 

XXV. Of the triumphant Summer Array of 

the Maid 182 

XXVI. They come to the Folk of the Bears . 189 
XXVII. Morning amongst the Bears .... 197 
XXVIII. Of the new God of the Bears ... 201 
XXIX. Walter strays in the Pass and is sun- 
dered from the Maid 21 

XXX. Now they meet again 215 

XXXI. They come upon new Folk .... 223 
XXXII. Of the new King of the City and Land 

of Stark-wall 228 

XXXIII. Concerning the Fashion of King-making 

in Stark-wall 233 

XXXIV. Now cometh the Maid to the King . 236 
XXXV. Of the King of Stark-wall and his 

Queen 239 

XXXVI. Of Walter and the Maid in the Days 

of the Kingship 245 





AWHILE ago there was a young man 
dwelling in a great and goodly city by 
the sea which had to name Langton 
on Holm. ' He was but of five and twenty 
winters, a fair-faced man, yellow-haired, tall 
and strong ; rather wiser than foolisher than 
young men are mostly wont ; a valiant youth, 
and a kind ; not of many words but courteous 
of speech; no roisterer, nought masterful, but 
peaceable and knowing how to forbear : in a 
fray a perilous foe, and a trusty war-fellow. 
His father, with whom he was dwelling when 
this tale begins, was a great merchant, richer 
than a baron of the land, a head-man of the 
greatest of the Lineages of Langton, and a 

I B 

captain of the Porte ; he was of the Lineage 
of the Goldings, therefore was he called Bar- 
tholomew Golden, and his son Golden Walter. 
Now ye may well deem that such a young- 
ling as this was looked upon by all as a lucky 
man without a lack ; but there was this flaw 
in his lot, whereas he had fallen into the toils 
of love of a woman exceeding fair, and had 
taken her to wife, she nought unwilling as it 
seemed. But when they had been wedded 
some six months he found by manifest tokens, 
that his fairness was not so much to her but that 
she must seek to the foulness of one worser 
than he in all ways ; wherefore his rest 
departed from him, whereas he hated her 
for her untruth and her hatred of him ; yet 
would the sound of her voice, as she came and 
went in the house, make his heart beat ; and 
the sight of her stirred desire within him, so 
that he longed for her to be sweet and kind 
with him, and deemed that, might it be so, 
he should forget all the evil gone by. But it 
was not so ; for ever when she saw him, her 
face changed, and her hatred of him became 
manifest, and howsoever she were sweet with 
others, with him she was hard and sour. 

So this went on a while till the chambers 
of his father's house, yea the very streets of 


the city, became loathsome to him ; and yet 
he called to mind that the world was wide 
and he but a young man. So on a day as he 
sat with his father alone, he spake to him 
and said : Father, I was on the quays even 
now, and I looked on the ships that were 
nigh boun, and thy sign I saw on a tall 
ship that seemed to me nighest boun. Will 
it be long ere she sail ? 

Nay, said his father, that ship, which hight 
the Katherine, will they warp out of the 
haven in two days' time. But why askest 
thou of her ? 

The shortest word is best, father, said 
Walter, and this it is, that I would depart in 
the said ship and see other lands. 

Yea and whither, son ? said the merchant. 

Whither she goeth, said Walter, for I am 
ill at ease at home, as thou wottest, father. 

The merchant held his peace awhile, and 
looked hard on his son, for there was strong 
love between them ; but at last he said : 
Well, son, maybe it were best for thee ; but 
maybe also we shall not meet again. 

Yet if we do meet, father, then shalt thou 
see a new man in me. 

Well, said Bartholomew, at least I know 
on whom to lay the loss of thee, and when 


thou art gone, for thou shalt have thine own 
way herein, she shall no longer abide in my 
house. Nay, but it were for the strife that 
should arise thenceforth betwixt her kindred 
and ours, it should go somewhat worse with 
her than that. 

Said Walter: I pray thee shame her not 
more than needs must be, lest, so doing, thou 
shame both me and thyself also. 

Bartholomew held his peace again for 
a while ; then he said : Goeth she with 
child, my son? 

Walter reddened, and said : I wot not ; 
nor of whom the child may be. Then they 
both sat silent, till Bartholomew spake, say- 
ing : The end of it is, son, that this is Mon- 
day, and that thou shalt go aboard in the 
small hours of Wednesday; and meanwhile I 
shall look to it that thou go not away empty- 
handed ; the skipper of the Katherine is a 
good man and true, and knows the seas well ; 
and my servant Robert the Low, who is clerk 
of the lading, is trustworthy and wise, and as 
myself in all matters that look towards 
chaffer. The Katherine is new and stout- 
builded, and should be lucky, whereas she is 
under the ward of her who is the saint called 
upon in the church where thou wert 


christened, and myself before thee ; and thy 
mother, and my father and mother all lie 
under the chancel thereof, as thou wottest. 

Therewith the elder rose up and went his 
ways about his business, and there was no 
more said betwixt him and his son on this 


WHEN Walter went down to the 
Katherine next morning, there was 
the skipper Geoffrey, who did him 
reverence, and made him all cheer, and showed 
him his room aboard ship, and the plenteous 
goods which his father had sent down to the 
quays already, such haste as he had made. 
Walter thanked his father's love in his heart, 
but otherwise took little heed to his affairs, 
but wore away the time about the haven, 
gazing listlessly on the ships that were making 
them ready outward, or unlading, and the 
mariners and aliens coming and going: and 
all these were to him as the curious images 
woven on a tapestry. 

At last when he had well-nigh come back 
again to the Katherine, he saw there a tall 
ship, which he had scarce noted before, a 
ship all-boun, which had her boats out, and 


men sitting to the oars thereof ready to tow 
her outwards when the hawser should be cast 
off, and by seeming her mariners were but 
abiding for some one or other to come 

So Walter stood idly watching the said 
ship, and as he looked, lo ! folk passing him 
toward the gangway. These were three ; 
first came a dwarf, dark-brown of hue and 
hideous, with long arms and ears exceeding 
great and dog-teeth that stuck out like the 
fangs of a wild beast. He was clad in a 
rich coat of yellow silk, and bare in his hand 
a crooked bow, and was girt with a broad 

After him came a maiden, young by seem- 
ing, of scarce twenty summers ; fair of face 
as a flower ; grey-eyed, brown-haired, with 
lips full and red, slim and gentle of body. 
Simple was her array, of a short and strait 
green gown, so that on her right ankle was 
clear to see an iron ring. 

Last of the three was a lady, tall and 
stately, so radiant of visage and glorious of 
raiment, that it were hard to say what like 
she was ; for scarce might the eye gaze steady 
upon her exceeding beauty ; yet must every 
son of Adam who found himself anigh her, 


lift up his eyes again after he had dropped 
them, and look again on her, and yet again 
and yet again. Even so did Walter, and as 
the three passed by him, it seemed to him as 
if all the other folk there about had vanished 
and were nought ; nor had he any vision 
before his eyes of any looking on them, save 
himself alone. They went over the gangway 
into the ship, and he saw them go along the 
deck till they came to the house on the 
poop, and entered it, and were gone from 
his sight. 

There he stood staring, till little by little 
the thronging people of the quays came into 
his eye-shot again ; then he saw how the 
hawser was cast off and the boats fell to 
tugging the big ship towards the harbour- 
mouth with hale and how of men. Then 
the sail fell down from the yard and was 
sheeted home and filled with the fair wind as 
the ship's bows ran up on the first green wave 
outside the haven. Even therewith the ship- 
men cast abroad a banner, whereon was done 
in a green field a grim wolf ramping up 
against a maiden, and so went the ship upon 
her way. 

Walter stood awhile staring at her empty 
place where the waves ran into the haven- 


mouth, and then turned aside and toward the 
Katherine ; and at first he was minded to go 
ask shipmaster Geoffrey of what he knew 
concerning the said ship and her alien way- 
farers ; but then it came into his mind, that 
all this was but an imagination or dream of 
the day, and that he were best to leave it 
untold to any. So therewith he went his 
way from the water-side, and through the 
streets unto his father's house ; but when he 
was but a little way thence, and the door was 
before him, him-seemed for a moment of 
time that he beheld those three coming 
out down the steps of stone and into the 
street ; to wit the dwarf, the maiden, and the 
stately lady : but when he stood still to abide 
their coming, and looked toward them, lo ! 
there was nothing before him save the 
goodly house of Bartholomew Golden, and 
three children and a cur dog playing about 
the steps thereof, and about him were four or 
five passers-by going about their business. 
Then was he all confused in his mind, and 
knew not what to make of it, whether those 
whom he had seemed to see pass aboard ship 
were but images of a dream, or children of 
Adam in very flesh. 

Howsoever, he entered the house, and 


found his father in the chamber, and fell to 
speech with him about their matters ; but for 
all that he loved his father, and worshipped him 
as a wise and valiant man, yet at that hour he 
might not hearken the words of his mouth, 
so much was his mind entangled in the 
thought of those three, and they were ever 
before his eyes, as if they had been painted on 
a table by the best of limners. And of the 
two women he thought exceeding much, and 
cast no wyte upon himself for running after 
the desire of strange women. For he said to 
himself that he desired not either of the twain ; 
nay, he might not tell which of the twain, 
the maiden or the stately queen, were clearest 
to his eyes ; but sore he desired to see both 
of them again, and to know what they were. 
So wore the hours till the Wednesday 
morning, and it was time that he should bid 
farewell to his father and get aboard ship ; but 
his father led him down to the quays and on 
to the Katherine, and there Walter embraced 
him, not without tears and forebodings ; for 
his heart was full. Then presently the old 
man went aland ; the gangway was unshipped, 
the hawsers cast off; the oars of the towing- 
boats splashed in the dark water, the sail fell 
down from the yard, and was sheeted home, 


and out plunged the Katherine into the misty 
sea and rolled up the grey slopes, casting 
abroad her ancient withal, whereon was 
beaten the token of Bartholomew Golden, to 
wit a B and a G to the right and the left, and 
thereabove a cross and a triangle rising from 
the midst. 

Walter stood on the stern and beheld, yet 
more with the mind of him than with his 
eyes ; for it all seemed but the double of what 
the other ship had done ; and he thought of 
it as if the twain were as beads strung on one 
string and led away by it into the same place, 
and thence to go in the like order, and so on 
again and again, and never to draw nigher to 
each other. 



FAST sailed the Katherine over the seas, 
and nought befell to tell of, either to 
herself or her crew. She came to one 
cheaping-town and then to another, and so on 
to a third and a fourth ; and at each was buy- 
ing and selling after the manner of chapmen ; 
and Walter not only looked on the doings of 
his father's folk, but lent a hand, what he 
might, to help them in all matters, whether it 
were in seaman's craft, or in chaffer. And the 
further he went and the longer the time wore, 
the more he was eased of his old trouble 
wherein his wife and her treason had to do. 

But as for the other trouble, to wit his 
desire and longing to come up with those 
three, it yet flickered before him ; and 
though he had not seen them again as one sees 
people in the streets, and as if he might touch 


them if he would, yet were their images 
often before his mind's eye ; and yet, as time 
wore, not so often, nor so troublously ; and 
forsooth both to those about him and to him- 
self, he seemed as a man well healed of his 
melancholy mood. 

Now they left that fourth stead, and sailed 
over the seas and came to a fifth, a very 
great and fair city, which they had made 
more than seven months from Langton on 
Holm ; and by this time was Walter taking 
heed andjoyance in such things as were toward 
in that fair city, so far from his kindred, and 
especially he looked on the fair women there, 
and desired them, and loved them ; but 
lightly, as befalleth young men. 

Now this was the last country whereio the 
Katherine was boun ; so there they abode 
some ten months in daily chaffer, and in 
pleasuring them in beholding all that there 
was of rare and goodly, and making merry with 
the merchants and the towns-folk, and the 
country-folk beyond the gates, and Walter 
was grown as busy and gay as a strong young 
man is like to be, and was as one who would 
fain be of some account amongst his own 

But at the end of this while, it befell on a 


day, as he was leaving his hostel for his booth 
in the market, and had the door in his hand, 
there stood before him three mariners in the 
guise of his own country, and with them was 
one of clerky aspect, whom he knew at once 
for his father's scrivener, Arnold Penstrong by 
name ; and when Walter saw him his heart 
failed him and he cried out : Arnold, what 
tidings? Is all well with the folk at Lang- 

Said Arnold : Evil tidings are come with 
me ; matters are ill with thy folk ; for I may 
not hide that thy father, Bartholomew Golden, 
is dead, God rest his soul. 

At that word it was to Walter as if all that 
trouble which but now had sat so light upon 
him, was once again fresh and heavy, and that 
his past life of the last few months had never 
been ; and it was to him as if he saw his 
father lying dead on his bed, and heard the 
folk lamenting about the house. He held 
his peace a while, and then he said in a voice 
as of an angry man : What, Arnold ! and did 
he die in his bed, or how ? for he was neither 
old nor ailing when we parted. 

Said Arnold : Yea, in his bed he died : but 
first he was somewhat sword-bitten. 

Yea, and how ? quoth Walter. 


Said Arnold : When thou wert gone, in a 
few days' wearing, thy father sent thy wife 
out of his house back to her kindred of the 
Reddings with no honour, and yet with no 
such shame as might have been, without 
blame to us of those who knew the tale of 
thee and her ; which, God-a-mercy, will be 
pretty much the whole of the city. 

Nevertheless, the Reddings took it amiss, 
and would have a mote with us Goldings to talk 
of booting. By ill-luck we yea-said that for 
the saving of the city's peace. But what be- 
tid ? We met in our Gild-hall, and there befell 
the talk between us ; and in that talk certain 
words could not be hidden, though they were 
none too seemly nor too meek. And the 
said words once spoken drew forth the 
whetted steel ; and there then was the hewing 
and thrusting ! Two of ours were slain out- 
right on the floor, and four of theirs, and 
many were hurt on either side. Of these was 
thy father, for as thou mayst well deem, he 
was nought backward in the fray ; but 
despite his hurts, two in the side and one on 
the arm, he went home on his own feet, and 
we deemed that we had come to our above. 
But well-a-way ! it was an evil victory, 
whereas in ten days he died of his hurts. 

God have his soul ! But now, my master, 
thou mayst well wot that I am not come to 
tell thee this only, but moreover to bear the 
word of the kindred, to wit that thou come 
back with me straightway in the swift cutter 
which hath borne me and the tidings ; and 
thou mayst look to it, that though she be 
swift and light, she is a keel full weatherly. 

Then said Walter : This is a bidding of 
war. Come back will I, and the Reddings 
shall wot of my coming. Are ye all-boun ? 

Yea, said Arnold, we may up anchor this 
very day, or to-morrow morn at latest. But 
what aileth thee, master, that thou starest so 
wild over my shoulder ? I pray thee take it 
not so much to heart ! Ever it is the wont 
of fathers to depart this world before their 

But Walter's visage from wrathful red had 
become pale, and he pointed up street, and 
cried out : Look ! dost thou see ? 

See what, master ? quoth Arnold : 

What! here cometh an ape in gay raiment ; 
belike the beast of some jongleur. Nay, 
by God's wounds! 'tis a man, though he 
be exceeding mis-shapen like a very devil. 
Yea and now there cometh a pretty maid 
going as if she were of his meney ; and lo ! 


here, a most goodly and noble lady! Yea, 
I see ; and doubtless she owneth both the two, 
and is of the greatest of the folk of this 
fair city ; for on the maiden's ankle I saw 
an iron ring, which betokeneth thralldom 
amongst these aliens. But this is strange! 
for notest thou not how the folk in the 
street heed not this quaint show; nay not 
even the stately lady, though she be as lovely 
as a goddess of the gentiles, and beareth on 
her gems that would buy Langton twice 
over ; surely they must be overwont to 
strange and gallant sights. But now, master, 
but now! 

Yea, what is it ? said Walter. 

Why, master, they should not yet be gone 
out of eye-shot, yet gone they are. 

What is become of them, are they sunk 
into the earth ? Tush, man ! said Walter, 
looking not on Arnold, but still staring down 
the street ; they have gone into some house 
while thine eyes were turned from them a 

Nay, master, nay, said Arnold, mine eyes 
were not off them one instant of time. Well, 
said Walter, somewhat snappishly, they are 
gone now, and what have we to do to heed 
such toys, we with all this grief and strife on 

17 c 

our hands ? Now would I be alone to turn 
the matter of thine errand over in my 
mind. Meantime do thou tell the shipmaster 
Geoffrey and our other folk of these tidings, 
and thereafter get thee all ready ; and come 
hither to me before sunrise to-morrow, and 
I shall be ready for my part ; and so sail we 
back to Langton. 

Therewith he turned him back into the 
house, and the others went their ways ; but 
Walter sat alone in his chamber a long while, 
and pondered these things in his mind. And 
whiles he made up his mind that he would 
think no more of the vision of those three, 
but would fare back to Langton, and enter 
into the strife with the Reddings and quell 
them, or die else. But lo, when he was 
quite steady in this doom, and his heart was 
lightened thereby, he found that he thought 
no more of the Reddings and their strife, but 
as matters that were passed and done with, 
and that now he was thinking and devising if 
by any means he might find out in what 
land dwelt those three. And then again he 
strove to put that from him, saying that 
what he had seen was but meet for one 
brainsick, and a dreamer of dreams. But 
furthermore he thought, Yea, and was Arnold, 


who this last time had seen the images of 
those three, a dreamer of waking dreams ? 
for he was nought wonted in such wise ; 
then thought he : At least I am well content 
that he spake to me of their likeness, not I 
to him ; for so I may tell that there was at 
least something before my eyes which grew 
not out of mine own brain. And yet again, 
why should I follow them ; and what should 
I get by it ; and indeed how shall I set about 

Thus he turned the matter over and over ; 
and at last, seeing that if he grew no foolisher 
over it, he grew no wiser, he became weary 
thereof, and bestirred him, and saw to the 
trussing up of his goods, and made all ready 
for his departure, and so wore the day and 
slept at nightfall ; and at daybreak comes 
Arnold to lead him to their keel, which hight 
the Bartholomew. He tarried nought, and 
with few farewells went aboard ship, and an 
hour after they were in the open sea with 
the ship's head turned toward Langton on 


NOW swift sailed the Bartholomew 
for four weeks toward the north- 
west with a fair wind, and all was 
well with ship and crew. Then the wind 
died out on even of a day, so that the 
ship scarce made way at all, though she 
rolled in a great swell of the sea, so great, 
that it seemed to ridge all the main athwart. 
Moreover down in the west was a great bank 
of cloud huddled up in haze, whereas for 
twenty days past the sky had been clear, save 
for a few bright white clouds flying before 
the wind. Now the shipmaster, a man right 
cunning in his craft, looked long on sea and 
sky, and then turned and bade the mariners 
take in sail and be right heedful. And when 
Walter asked him what he looked for, and 


wherefore he spake not to him thereof, he 
said surlily : Why should I tell thee what 
any fool can see without telling, to wit that 
there is weather to hand ? 

So they abode what should befall, and 
Walter went to his room to sleep away the 
uneasy while, for the night was now fallen ; 
and he knew no more till he was waked up by 
great hubbub and clamour of the shipmen, 
and the whipping of ropes, and thunder of 
flapping sails, and the tossing and weltering of 
the ship withal. But, being a very stout- 
hearted young man, he lay still in his room, 
partly because he was a landsman, and had 
no mind to tumble about amongst the ship- 
men and hinder them ; and withal he said 
to himself: What matter whether I go down 
to the bottom of the sea, or come back to 
Langton, since either way my life or my 
death will take away from me the fulfilment 
of desire ? Yet soothly if there hath been a 
shift of wind, that is not so ill ; for then 
shall we be driven to other lands, and so at 
the least our home-coming shall be delayed, 
and other tidings may hap amidst of our 
tarrying. So let all be as it will. 

So in a little while, in spite of the ship's 
wallowing and the tumult of the wind and 


waves, he fell asleep again, and woke no 
more till it was full daylight, and there was 
the shipmaster standing in the door of his 
room, the sea-water all streaming from his 
wet-weather raiment. He said to Walter : 
Young master, the sele of the day to thee ! 
For by good hap we have gotten into another 
day. Now I shall tell thee that we have 
striven to beat, so as not to be driven off our 
course, but all would not avail, wherefore for 
these three hours we have been running 
before the wind ; but, fair sir, so big hath 
been the sea that but for our ship being of 
the stoutest, and our men all yare, we had 
all grown exceeding wise concerning the 
ground of the mid-main. Praise be to St. 
Nicholas and all Hallows! for though ye 
shall presently look upon a new sea, and 
maybe a new land to boot, yet is that 
better than looking on the ugly things down 

Is all well with ship and crew then ? said 

Yea forsooth, said the shipmaster ; verily 
the Bartholomew is the darling of Oak 
Woods; come up and look at it, how she 
is dealing with wind and waves all free from 


So Walter did on his foul-weather raiment, 
and went up on to the quarter-deck, and 
there indeed was a change of days ; for the 
sea was dark and tumbling mountain-high, 
and the white-horses were running down the 
valleys thereof, and the clouds drave low 
over all, and bore a scud of rain along with 
them; and though there was but a rag of 
sail on her, the ship flew before the wind, 
rolling a great wash of water from bulwark 
to bulwark. 

Walter stood looking on it all awhile, 
holding on by a stay-rope, and saying to 
himself that it was well that they were 
driving so fast toward new things. 

Then the shipmaster came up to him and 
clapped him on the shoulder and said : Well, 
shipmate, cheer up! and now come below 
again and eat some meat, and drink a cup 
with me. 

So Walter went down and ate and drank, 
and his heart was lighter than it had been 
since he had heard of his father's death, and 
the feud awaiting him at home, which for- 
sooth he had deemed would stay his wander- 
ings a weary while, and therewithal his 
hopes. But now it seemed as if he needs 
must wander, would he, would he not ; and 


so it was that even this fed his hope ; so 
sore his heart clung to that desire of his to 
seek home to those three that seemed to call 
him unto them. 


THREE days they drave before the 
wind, and on the fourth the clouds 
lifted, the sun shone out and the 
offing was clear ; the wind had much abated, 
though it still blew a breeze, and was 
a head wind for sailing toward the country of 
Langton. So then the master said that, since 
they were bewildered, and the wind so ill to 
deal with, it were best to go still before the 
wind that they might make some land and 
get knowledge of their whereabouts from the 
folk thereof. Withal he said that he deemed 
the land not to be very far distant. 

So did they, and sailed on pleasantly 
enough, for the weather kept on mending, 
and the wind fell till it was but a light 
breeze, yet still foul for Langton. 

So wore three days, and on the eve of the 
third, the man from the topmast cried out 


that he saw land ahead ; and so did they all 
before the sun was quite set, though it were 
but a cloud no bigger than a man's hand. 

When night fell they struck not sail, but 
went forth toward the land fair and softly ; 
for it was early summer, so that the nights 
were neither long nor dark. 

But when it was broad daylight, they 
opened a land, a long shore of rocks and 
mountains, and nought else that they could 
see at first. Nevertheless as day wore and 
they drew nigher, first they saw how the 
mountains fell away from the sea, and were 
behind a long wall of sheer cliff; and coming 
nigher yet, they beheld a green plain going 
up after a little in green bents and slopes to 
the feet of the said cliff-wall. 

No city nor haven did they see there, not 
even when they were far nigher to the land ; 
nevertheless, whereas they hankered for the 
peace of the green earth after all the tossing 
and unrest of the sea, and whereas also they 
doubted not to find at the least good and 
fresh water, and belike other bait in the plain 
under the mountains, they still sailed on not 
unmerrily ; so that by nightfall they cast an- 
chor in five-fathom water hard by the shore. 

Next morning they found that they were 

lying a little way off the mouth of a river 
not right great ; so they put out their boats 
and towed the ship up into the said river, and 
when they had gone up it for a mile or 
thereabouts they found the sea water failed, 
for little was the ebb and flow of the tide on 
that coast. Then was the river deep and 
clear, running between smooth grassy land 
like to meadows. Also on their left board 
they saw presently three head of neat cattle 
going, as if in a meadow of a homestead in 
their own land, and a few sheep; and there- 
after, about a bow-draught from the river, 
they saw a little house of wood and straw- 
thatch under a wooded mound, and with 
orchard trees about it. They wondered 
little thereat, for they knew no cause why 
that land should not be builded, though it 
were in the far outlands. However, they 
drew their ship up to the bank, thinking 
that they would at least abide awhile and 
ask tidings and have some refreshing of 
the green plain, which was so lovely and 

But while they were busied herein they 
saw a man come out of the house, and down 
to the river to meet them; and they soon 
saw that he was tall and old, long-hoary of 


hair and beard, and clad mostly in the skins 
of beasts. 

He drew nigh without any fear or mis- 
trust, and coming close to them gave them 
the sele of the day in a kindly and pleasant 
voice. The shipmaster greeted him in his 
turn, and said withal : Old man, art thou the 
king of this country ? 

The elder laughed ; It hath had none 
other a long while, said he ; and at least 
there is no other son of Adam here to gain- 

Thou art alone here then ? said the 

Yea, said the old man, save for the beasts 
of the field and the wood, and the creeping 
things, and fowl. Wherefore it is sweet to 
me to hear your voices. 

Said the master : Where be the other 
houses of the town ? 

The old man laughed. Said he : When 
I said that I was alone, I meant that I was 
alone in the land and not only alone in this 
stead. There is no house save this betwixt 
the sea and the dwellings of the Bears, over 
the cliff-wall yonder, yea and a long way 
over it. 

Yea, quoth the shipmaster grinning, and 

be the bears of thy country so manlike, that 
they dwell in builded houses ? 

The old man shook his head. Sir, said 
he, as to their bodily fashion, it is altogether 
manlike, save that they be one and all higher 
and bigger than most. For they be bears 
only in name ; they be a nation of half wild 
men ; for I have been told by them that 
there be many more than that tribe whose 
folk I have seen, and that they spread wide 
about behind these mountains from east to 
west. Now, sir, as to their souls and under- 
standings I warrant them not ; for miscreants 
they be, trowing neither in God nor his 

Said the master : Trow they in Mahound 
then ? 

Nay, said the elder, I wot not for sure 
that they have so much as a false God; 
though I have it from them that they wor- 
ship a certain woman with mickle worship. 

Then spake Walter: Yea, good sir, and 
how knowest thou that ? dost thou deal with 
them at all ? 

Said the old man : Whiles some of that 
folk come hither and have of me what I can . >& 
spare ; a calf or two, or a half-dozen of 
lambs or hoggets; or a skin of wine or 


cyder of mine own making : and they give 
me in return such things as I can use, as 
skins of hart and bear and other peltries ; 
for now I am old, I can but little of the 
hunting hereabout. Whiles, also, they bring 
little lumps of pure copper, and would give 
me gold also, but it is of little use in this 
lonely land. Sooth to say, to me they are 
not masterful or rough-handed ; but glad am 
I that they have been here but of late, and 
are not like to come again this while ; for 
terrible they are of aspect, and whereas ye 
be aliens, belike they would not hold their 
hands from off you ; and moreover ye have 
weapons and other matters which they would 
covet sorely. 

Quoth the master : Since thou dealest with 
these wild men, will ye not deal with us in 
chaffer ? For whereas we are come from long 
travel, we hanker after fresh viclual, and 
here aboard are many things which were for 
thine avail. 

Said the old man : All that I have is yours, 
so that ye do but leave me enough till my 
next ingathering : of wine and cyder, such 
as it is, I have plenty for your service; ye 
may drink it till it is all gone, if ye will : a 
little corn and meal I have, but not much ; 


yet are ye welcome thereto, since the standing 
corn in my garth is done blossoming, and I 
have other meat. Cheeses have I and dried 
fish ; take what ye will thereof. But as to 
my neat and sheep, if ye have sore need of 
any, and will have them, I may not say you 
nay : but I pray you if ye may do without 
them, not to take my milch-beasts or their 
engenderers; for, as ye have heard me say, 
the Bear-folk have been here but of late, and 
they have had of me all I might spare : but 
now let me tell you, if ye long after flesh- 
meat, that there is venison of hart and hind, 
yea, and of buck and doe, to be had on this 
plain, and about the little woods at the feet 
of the rock-wall yonder: neither are they 
exceeding wild; for since I may not take 
them, I scare them not, and no other man 
do they see to hurt them ; for the Bear-folk 
come straight to my house, and fare straight 
home thence. But I will lead you the nighest 
way to where the venison is easiest to be 
gotten. As to the wares in your ship, if ye 
will give me aught I will take it with a good 
will ; and chiefly if ye have a fair knife or 
two and a roll of linen cloth, that were a good 
refreshment to me. But in any case what I 
have to give is free to you and welcome. 

3 1 

The shipmaster laughed : Friend, said he, 
we can thee mickle thanks for all that thou 
biddest us. And wot well that we be no 
lifters or sea-thieves to take thy livelihood 
from thee. So to-morrow, if thou wilt, we 
will go with thee and upraise the hunt, and 
meanwhile we will come aland, and walk on 
the green grass, and water our ship with thy 
good fresh water. 

So the old carle went back to his house to 
make them ready what cheer he might, and 
the shipmen, who were twenty and one, all 
told, what with the mariners and Arnold and 
Walter's servants, went ashore, all but two 
who watched the ship and abode their turn. 
They went well-weaponed, for both the 
master and Walter deemed wariness wisdom, 
lest all might not be so good as it seemed. 
They took of their sail-cloths ashore, and 
tilted them in on the meadow betwixt the 
house and the ship, and the carle brought 
them what he had for their avail, of fresh 
fruits, and cheeses, and milk, and wine, and 
cyder, and honey, and there they feasted 
nowise ill, and were right fain. 

3 2 


BUT when they had done their meat 
and drink the master and the ship- 
men went about the watering of the 
ship, and the others strayed off along the 
meadow, so that presently Walter was left 
alone with the carle, and fell to speech 
with him and said : Father, meseemeth thou 
shouldest have some strange tale to tell, and 
as yet we have asked thee of nought save 
meat for our bellies : now if I ask thee con- 
cerning thy life, and how thou earnest hither, . 
and abided here, wilt thou tell me aught ? 

The old man smiled on him and said: 
Son, my tale were long to tell; and may- 
happen concerning much thereof my memory 
should fail me; and withal there is grief 

33 D 

therein, which I were loth to awaken: never- 
theless if thou ask, I will answer as I may, 
and in any case will tell thee nought save 
the truth. 

Said Walter: Well then, hast thou been 
long here ? 

Yea, said the carle, since I was a young 
man, and a stalwarth knight. 

Said Walter : This house, didst thou build 
it, and raise these garths, and plant orchard 
and vineyard, and gather together the neat 
and the sheep, or did some other do all this 
for thee ? 

Said the carle : I did none of all this ; 
there was one here before me, and I entered 
into his inheritance, as though this were a 
lordly manor, with a fair castle thereon, and 
all well stocked and plenished. 

Said Walter : Didst thou find thy foregoer 
alive here ? 

Yea, said the elder, yet he lived but for a 
little while after I came to him. 

He was silent a while, and then he said : 
I slew him : even so would he have it, though 
I bade him a better lot. 

Said Walter: Didst thou come hither of 
thine own will? 

Mayhappen, said the carle ; who knoweth ? 


Now have I no will to do either this or that. 
It is wont that maketh me do, or refrain. 

Said Walter : Tell me this ; why didst 
thou slay the man ? did he any scathe to 
thee ? 

Said the elder : When I slew him, I deemed 
that he was doing me all scathe : but now I 
know that it was not so. Thus it was ; I 
would needs go where he had been before, 
and he stood in the path against me ; and I 
overthrew him, and went on the way I 

What came thereof? said Walter. 

Evil came of it, said the carle. 

Then was Walter silent a while, and the 
old man spake nothing; but there came a 
smile in his face that was both sly and some- 
what sad. Walter looked on him and said: 
Was it from hence that thou wouldst go 
that road ? 

Yea, said the carle. 

Said Walter : And now wilt thou tell me 
what that road was; whither it went and 
whereto it led, that thou must needs wend 
it, though thy first stride were over a dead 

I will not tell thee, said the carle. 

Then they held their peace, both of them, 


and thereafter got on to other talk of no im- 

So wore the day till night came ; and they 
slept safely, and on the morrow after they 
had broken their fast, the more part of them 
set off with the carle to the hunting, and 
they went, all of them, a three hours' faring 
towards the foot of the cliffs, which was all 
grown over with coppice, hazel and thorn, 
with here and there a big oak or ash-tree; 
there it was, said the old man, where the 
venison was most and best. 

Of their hunting need nought be said, 
saving that when the carle had put them on 
the track of the deer and shown them what 
to do, he came back again with Walter, who 
had no great lust for the hunting, and sorely 
longed to have some more talk with the 
said carle. He for his part seemed nought 
loth thereto, and so led Walter to a mound 
or hillock amidst the clear of the plain, 
whence all was to be seen save where the 
wood covered it ; but just before where they 
now lay down there was no wood, save low 
bushes, betwixt them and the rock-wall ; 
and Walter noted that whereas otherwhere, 
save in one place whereto their eyes were 
turned, the cliffs seemed well-nigh or quite 


sheer, or indeed in some places beetling over, 
in that said place they fell away from each 
other on either side ; and before this sinking 
was a slope or scree, that went gently up 
toward the sinking of the wall. Walter 
looked long and earnestly at this place, and 
spake nought, till the carle said : What ! 
thou hast found something before thee to 
look on. What is it then ? 

Quoth Walter : Some would say that where 
yonder slopes run together up towards that 
sinking in the cliff-wall there will be a pass 
into the country beyond. 

The carle smiled and said : Yea, son ; nor, 
so saying, would they err; for that is the 
pass into the Bear-country, whereby those 
huge men come down to chaffer with me. 

Yea, said Walter ; and therewith he turned 
him a little, and scanned the rock-wall, and 
saw how a few miles from that pass it turned 
somewhat sharply toward the sea, narrowing 
the plain much there, till it made a bight, 
the face whereof looked wellnigh north, 
instead of west, as did the more part of the 
wall. And in the midst of that northern- 
looking bight was a dark place which 
seemed to Walter like a downright shard 
in the cliff. For the face of the wall was 


a bleak grey, and it was but little 

So then Walter spake : Lo, old friend, 
there yonder is again a place that meseemeth 
is a pass ; whereunto doth that one lead ? 
And he pointed to it : but the old man did 
not follow the pointing of his finger, but, 
looking down on the ground, answered con- 
fusedly, and said : 

Maybe : I wot not. I deem that it also 
leadeth into the Bear-country by a round- 
about road. It leadeth into the far land. 

Walter answered nought : for a strange 
thought had come uppermost in his mind, 
that the carle knew far more than he would 
say of that pass, and that he himself might 
be led thereby to find the wondrous three. 
He caught his breath hardly, and his heart 
knocked against his ribs ; but he refrained 
from speaking for a long while ; but at last 
he spake in a sharp hard voice, which he 
scarce knew for his own : Father, tell me, I 
adjure thee by God and All-hallows, was it 
through yonder shard that the road lay, when 
thou must needs make thy first stride over a 
dead man ? 

The old man spake not a while, then he 
raised his head, and looked Walter full in 


the eyes, and said in a steady voice : NO, IT 
WAS NOT. Thereafter they sat looking at 
each other a while ; but at last Walter turned 
his eyes away, but knew not what they beheld 
nor where he was, but he was as one in a 
swoon. For he knew full well that the carle 
had lied to him, and that he might as well 
have said aye as no, and told him, that it 
verily was by that same shard that he had 
stridden over a dead man. Nevertheless he 
made as little semblance thereof as he might, 
and presently came to himself, and fell to 
talking of other matters, that had nought to 
do with the adventures of the land. But 
after a while he spake suddenly, and said : 
My master, I was thinking of a thing. 

Yea, of what ? said the carle. 

Of this, said Walter; that here in this 
land be strange adventures toward, and that 
if we, and I in especial, were to turn our 
backs on them, and go home with nothing 
done, it were pity of our lives : for all will 
be dull and deedless there. I was deeming 
it were good if we tried the adventure. 

What adventure? said the old man, rising 
up on his elbow and staring sternly on him. 

Said Walter : The wending yonder pass to 
the eastward, whereby the huge men come 


to thee from out of the Bear-country ; that 
we might see what should come thereof. 

The carle leaned back again, and smiled 
and shook his head, and spake : That adven- 
ture were speedily proven : death would 
come of it, my son. 

Yea, and how ? said Walter. 

The carle said : The big men would take 
thee, and offer thee up as a blood-offering to 
that woman, who is their Mawmet. And if 
ye go all, then shall they do the like with 
all of you. 

Said Walter : Is that sure ? 

Dead sure, said the carle. 

How knowest thou this ? said Walter. 

I have been there myself, said the carle. 

Yea, said Walter, but thou earnest away 

Art thou sure thereof? said the carle. 

Thou art alive yet, old man, said Walter, 
for I have seen thee eat thy meat, which 
ghosts use not to do. And he laughed. 

But the old man answered soberly : If I 
escaped, it was by this, that another woman 
saved me, and not often shall that befall. 
Nor wholly was I saved ; my body escaped 
forsooth. But where is my soul ? Where 
is my heart, and my life ? Young man, I rede 


thee, try no such adventure ; but go home to 
thy kindred if thou canst. Moreover, wouldst 
thou fare alone ? The others shall hinder 

Said Walter : I am the master ; they shall 
do as I bid them: besides, they will be well 
pleased to share my goods amongst them if I 
give them a writing to clear them of all 
charges which might be brought against 

My son ! my son ! said the carle, I pray 
thee go not to thy death ! 

Walter heard him silently, but as if he 
were persuaded to refrain ; and then the old 
man fell to, and told him much concerning 
this Bear-folk and their customs, speaking 
very freely of them ; but Walter's ears were 
scarce open to this talk : whereas he deemed 
that he should have nought to do with those 
wild men ; and he durst not ask again con- 
cerning the country whereto led the pass on 
the northward. 


AS they were in converse thus, they 
heard the hunters blowing on their 
horns all together ; whereon the old 
man arose, and said : I deem by the blowing 
that the hunt will be over and done, and that 
they be blowing on their fellows who have 
gone scatter-meal about the wood. It is 
now some five hours after noon, and thy men 
will be getting back with their venison, and 
will be fainest of the victuals they have 
caught ; therefore will I hasten on before, 
and get ready fire and water and other 
matters for the cooking. Wilt thou come 
with me, young master, or abide thy men 
here ? 

Walter said lightly : I will rest and abide 
them here ; since I cannot fail to see them 
hence as they go on their ways to thine 


house. And it may be well that I be at 
hand to command them and forbid, and put 
some order amongst them, for rough play- 
mates they be, some of them, and now all 
heated with the hunting and the joy of the 
green earth. Thus he spoke, as if nought 
were toward save supper and bed ; but in- 
wardly hope and fear were contending in 
him, and again his heart beat so hard, that 
he deemed that the carle must surely hear 
it. But the old man took him but according 
to his outward seeming, and nodded his 
head, and went away quietly toward his 

When he had been gone a little, Walter 
rose up heedfully ; he had with him a scrip 
wherein was some cheese and hard-fish, and 
a little flasket of wine ; a short bow he had 
with him, and a quiver of arrows ; and he 
was girt with a strong and good sword, and 
a wood-knife withal. He looked to all this 
gear that it was nought amiss, and then 
speedily went down off the mound, and 
when he was come down, he found that it 
covered him from men coming out of the 
wood, if he went straight thence to that 
shard of the rock-wall where was the pass 
that led southward. 


Now it is no nay that thitherward he 
turned, and went wisely, lest the carle should 
make a backward cast, and see him, or lest 
any straggler of his own folk might happen 
upon him. 

For to say sooth, he deemed that did they 
wind him, they would be like to let him of 
his journey. He had noted the bearings of 
the cliffs nigh the shard, and whereas he 
could see their heads everywhere except 
from the depths of the thicket, he was not 
like to go astray. 

He had made no great way ere he heard 
the horns blowing all together again in one 
place, and looking thitherward through the 
leafy boughs (for he was now amidst of a 
thicket) he saw his men thronging the mound, 
and had no doubt therefore that they were 
blowing on him ; but being well under cover 
he heeded it nought, and lying still a little, 
saw them go down off the mound and go all 
of them toward the carle's house, still blowing 
as they went, but not faring scatter-meal. 
Wherefore it was clear that they were nought 
troubled about him. 

So he went on his way to the shard ; and 
there is nothing to say of his journey till he 
got before it with the last of the clear day, 


and entered it straightway. It was in sooth 
a downright breach or cleft in the rock-wall, 
and there was no hill or bent leading up to 
it, nothing but a tumble of stones before it, 
which was somewhat uneasy going, yet needed 
nought but labour to overcome it, and when 
he had got over this, and was in the very 
pass itself, he found it no ill going : forsooth 
at first it was little worse than a rough road 
betwixt two great stony slopes, though a 
little trickle of water ran down amidst of it. 
So, though it was so nigh nightfall, yet 
Walter pressed on, yea, and long after the 
very night was^come. For the moon rose 
wide and bright a little after nightfall. But 
at last he had gone so long, and was so 
wearied, that he deemed it nought but 
wisdom to rest him, and so lay down on 
a piece of green-sward betwixt the stones, 
when he had eaten a morsel out of his 
satchel, and drunk of the water of the stream. 
There as he lay, if he had any doubt of peril, 
his weariness soon made it all one to him, 
for presently he was sleeping as soundly as 
any man in Langton on Holm. 



DAY was yet young when he awoke : 
he leapt to his feet, and went down 
to the stream and drank of its waters, 
and washed the night off him in a pool 
thereof, and then set forth on his way again. 
When he had gone some three hours, the 
road, which had been going up all the way, 
but somewhat gently, grew steeper, and the 
bent on either side lowered, and lowered, till 
it sank at last altogether, and then was he on 
a rough mountain-neck with little grass, and 
no water ; save that now and again was a 
soft place with a flow amidst of it, and such 
places he must needs fetch a compass about, 
lest he be mired. He gave himself but little 
rest, eating what he needs must as he went. 
The day was bright and calm, so that the 
sun was never hidden, and he steered by it 
due south. All that day he went, and found 

no more change in that huge neck, save that 
whiles it was more and whiles less steep. A 
little before nightfall he happened on a 
shallow pool some twenty yards over; and 
he deemed it good to rest there, since there 
was water for his avail, though he might 
have made somewhat more out of the tail 
end of the day. 

When dawn came again he awoke and 
arose, nor spent much time over his breakfast ; 
but pressed on all he might ; and now he 
said to himself, that whatsoever other peril 
were athwart his way, he was out of the 
danger of the chase of his own folk. 

All this while he had seen no four-footed 
beast, save now and again a hill-fox, and 
once some outlandish kind of hare; and of 
fowl but very few : a crow or two, a long- 
winged hawk, and twice an eagle high up 

Again, the third night, he slept in the 
stony wilderness, which still led him up and 
up. Only toward the end of the day, him- 
seemed that it had been less steep for a long 
while : otherwise nought was changed, on 
all sides it was nought but the endless neck, 
wherefrom nought could be seen, but some 
other part of itself. This fourth night withal 


he found no water whereby he might rest, 
so that he awoke parched, and longing to 
drink just when the dawn was at its coldest. 
But on the fifth morrow the ground rose 
but little, and at last, when he had been going 
wearily a long while, and now, hard on noon- 
tide, his thirst grieved him sorely, he came 
on a spring welling out from under a high 
rock, the water wherefrom trickled feebly 
away. So eager was he to drink, that at 
first he heeded nought else ; but when his 
thirst was fully quenched his eyes caught 
sight of the stream which flowed from the 
well, and he gave a shout, for lo! it was 
running south. Wherefore it was with a 
merry heart that he went on, and as he 
went, came on more streams, all running 
south or thereabouts. He hastened on all 
he might, but in despite of all the speed he 
made, and that he felt the land now going 
down southward, night overtook him in that 
same wilderness. Yet when he stayed at 
last for sheer weariness, he lay down in what 
. he deemed by the moonlight to be a shallow 
valley, with a ridge at the southern end 

He slept long, and when he awoke the 
sun was high in the heavens, and never was 

brighter or clearer morning on the earth 
than was that. He arose and ate of what 
little was yet left him, and drank of the 
water of a stream which he had followed 
the evening before, and beside which he had 
laid him down ; and then set forth again 
with no great hope to come on new tidings 
that day. But yet when he was fairly afoot, 
himseemed that there was something new 
in the air which he breathed, that was soft 
and bore sweet scents home to him ; whereas 
heretofore, and that especially for the last 
three or four days, it had been harsh and 
void, like the face of the desert itself. 

So on he went, and presently was mounting 
the ridge aforesaid, and, as oft happens when 
one climbs a steep place, he kept his eyes on 
the ground, till he felt he was on the top of 
the ridge. Then he stopped to take breath, 
and raised his head and looked, and lo! he 
was verily on the brow of the great moun- 
tain-neck, and down below him was the 
hanging of the great hill-slopes, which fell 
down, not slowly, as those he had been those 
days a-mounting, but speedily enough, though 
with little of broken places or sheer cliffs. 
But beyond this last of the desert there was 
before him a lovely land of wooded hills, 

49 E 

green plains, and little valleys, stretching 
out far and wide, till it ended at last in great 
blue mountains and white snowy peaks beyond 

Then for very surprise of joy his spirit 
wavered, and he felt faint and dizzy, so that 
he was fain to sit down a while and cover 
his face with his hands. Presently he came 
to his sober mind again, and stood up and 
looked forth keenly, and saw no sign of any 
dwelling of man. But he said to himself 
that that might well be because the good 
and well-grassed land was still so far off, and 
that he might yet look to find men and their 
dwellings when he had left the mountain 
wilderness quite behind him. So therewith 
he fell to going his ways down the mountain, 
and lost little time therein, whereas he now 
had his livelihood to look to. 


WHAT with one thing, what with 
another, as his having to turn out 
of his way for sheer rocks, or for 
slopes so steep that he might not try the 
peril of them, and again for bogs impassable, 
he was fully three days more before he had 
quite come out of the stony waste, and by 
that time, though he had never lacked water, 
his scanty victual was quite done, for all his 
careful husbandry thereof. But this troubled 
him little, whereas he looked to find wild 
fruits here and there, and to shoot some 
small deer, as hare or coney, and make a 
shift to cook the same, since he had with 
him flint and fire-steel. Moreover the further 
he went, the surer he was that he should 
soon come across a dwelling, so smooth and 
fair as everything looked before him. And 

5 1 

he had scant fear, save that he might happen 
on men who should enthrall him. 

But when he was come down past the 
first green slopes, he was so worn, that he 
said to himself that rest was better than 
meat, so little as he had slept for the last 
three days ; so he laid him down under an 
ash-tree by a stream-side, nor asked what 
was o'clock, but had his fill of sleep, and 
even when he awoke in the fresh morning 
was little fain of rising, but lay betwixt 
sleeping and waking for some three hours 
more ; then he arose, and went further down 
the next green bent, yet somewhat slowly 
because of his hunger-weakness. And the 
scent of that fair land came up to him like 
the odour of one great nosegay. 

So he came to where the land was level, 
and there were many trees, as oak and ash, 
and sweet-chestnut and wych-elm, and horn- 
beam and quicken-tree, not growing in a 
close wood or tangled thicket, but set as 
though in order on the flowery greensward, 
even as it might be in a great king's park. 

So came he to a big bird-cherry, whereof 
many boughs hung low down laden with 
fruit : his belly rejoiced at the sight, and he 
caught hold of a bough, and fell to plucking 


and eating. But whiles he was amidst of 
this, he heard suddenly, close anigh him, a 
strange noise of roaring and braying, not 
very great, but exceeding fierce and terrible, 
and not like to the voice of any beast that 
he knew. As has been aforesaid, Walter 
was no faint-heart ; but what with the weak- 
ness of his travail and hunger, what with 
the strangeness of his adventure and his lone- 
liness, his spirit failed him ; he turned round 
towards the noise, his knees shook and he 
trembled : this way and that he looked, and 
then gave a great cry and tumbled down in 
a swoon ; for close before him, at his very 
feet, was the dwarf whose image he had seen 
before, clad in his yellow coat, and grinning 
up at him from his hideous hairy counte- 

How long he lay there as one dead, he 
knew not, but when he woke again there 
was the dwarf sitting on his hams close by 
him. And when he lifted up his head, the 
dwarf sent out that fearful harsh voice again ; 
but this time Walter could make out words 
therein, and knew that the creature spoke 
and said : 

How now! What art thou? Whence 
comest ? What wantest ? 


Walter sat up and said : I am a man ; I 
hight Golden Walter; I come from Lang- 
ton ; I want vi6tual. 

Said the dwarf, writhing his face grievously, 
and laughing forsooth : I know it all : I 
asked thee to see what wise thou wouldst 
lie. I was sent forth to look for thee ; and 
I have brought thee loathsome bread with 
me, such as ye aliens must needs eat : take 

Therewith he drew a loaf from a satchel 
which he bore, and thrust it towards Walter, 
who took it somewhat doubtfully for all his 

The dwarf yelled at him : Art thou dainty, 
alien ? Wouldst thou have flesh ? Well, 
give me thy bow and an arrow or two, since 
thou art lazy-sick, and I will get thee a 
coney or a hare, or a quail maybe. Ah, I 
forgot ; thou art dainty, and wilt not eat 
flesh as I do, blood and all together, but 
must needs half burn it in the fire, or mar it 
with hot water ; as they say my Lady does : 
or as the Wretch, the Thing does ; I know 
that, for I have seen It eating. 

Nay, said Walter, this sufficeth ; and he 
fell to eating the bread, which was sweet 
between his teeth. Then when he had 


eaten a while, for hunger compelled him, 
he said to the dwarf: But what meanest 
thou by the Wretch and the Thing ? And 
what Lady is thy Lady ? 

The creature let out another wordless roar 
as of furious anger; and then the words 
came : It hath a face white and red, like to 
thine ; and hands white as thine, yea, but 
whiter ; and the like it is underneath its 
raiment, only whiter still : for I have seen 
It ... yes, I have seen It ; ah yes and yes 
and yes. 

And therewith his words ran into gibber 
and yelling, and he rolled about and smote 
at the grass : but in a while he grew quiet 
again and sat still, and then fell to laughing 
horribly again, and then said : But thou, 
fool, wilt think It fair if thou fallest into 
It's hands, and wilt repent it thereafter, as I 
did. Oh, the mocking and gibes of It, 
and the tears and shrieks of It ; and the 
knife ! What ! sayest thou of my Lady ? . . . 
What Lady ? O alien, what other Lady is 
there ? And what shall I tell thee of her ? 
it is like that she made me, as she made the 
Bear men. But she made not the Wretch, 
the Thing ; and she hateth It sorely, as I do. 
And some day to come . . . 


Thereat he brake off and fell to wordless 
yelling a long while, and thereafter spake all 
panting : Now I have told thee overmuch, 
and O if my Lady come to hear thereof. 
Now I will go. 

And therewith he took out two more 
loaves from his wallet, and tossed them to 
Walter, and so turned and went his ways ; 
whiles walking upright, as Walter had seen 
his image on the quay of Langton ; whiles 
bounding and rolling like a ball thrown by 
a lad ; whiles scuttling along on all-fours 
like an evil beast, and ever and anon giving 
forth that harsh and evil cry. 

Walter sat a while after he was out of 
sight, so stricken with horror and loathing 
and a fear of he knew not what, that he 
might not move. Then he plucked up a 
heart, and looked to his weapons and put the 
other loaves into his scrip. 

Then he arose and went his ways wonder- 
ing, yea and dreading, what kind of creature 
he should next fall in with. For soothly it 
seemed to him that it would be worse than 
death if they were all such as this one ; and 
that if it were so, he must needs slay and be 


BUT as he went on through the fair 
and sweet land so bright and sun- 
litten, and he now rested and fed, the 
horror and fear ran off from him, and he 
wandered on merrily, neither did aught befall 
him save the coming of night, when he laid 
him down under a great spreading oak with 
his drawn sword ready to hand, and fell asleep 
at once, and woke not till the sun was high. 
Then he arose and went on his way again ; 
and the land was no worser than yesterday ; 
but even better, it might be ; the greensward 
more flowery, the oaks and chestnuts greater. 
Deer of diverse kinds he saw, and might 
easily have got his meat thereof; but he 
meddled not with them since he had his bread, 
and was timorous of lighting a fire. Withal he 
doubted little of having some entertainment ; 


and that, might be, nought evil ; since even 
that fearful dwarf had been courteous to him 
after his kind, and had done him good and 
not harm. But of the happening on the 
Wretch and the Thing, whereof the dwarf 
spake, he was yet somewhat afeard. 

After he had gone a while and whenas the 
summer morn was at its brightest, he saw a 
little way ahead a grey rock rising up from 
amidst of a ring of oak-trees ; so he turned 
thither straightway ; for in this plain land 
he had seen no rocks heretofore ; and as he 
went he saw that there was a fountain gushing 
out from under the rock, which ran thence 
in a fair little stream. And when he had the 
rock and the fountain and the stream clear 
before him, lo ! a child of Adam sitting beside 
the fountain under the shadow of the rock. 
He drew a little nigher, and then he saw 
that it was a woman, clad in green like the 
sward whereon she lay. She was playing 
with the welling out of the water, and she 
had trussed up her sleeves to the shoulder 
that she might thrust her bare arms therein. 
Her shoes of black leather lay on the grass 
beside her, and her feet and legs yet shone 
with the brook. 

Belike amidst the splashing and clatter of 


the water she did not hear him drawing nigh, 
so that he was close to her before she lifted 
up her face and saw him, and he beheld her, 
that it was the maiden of the thrice-seen 
pageant. She reddened when she saw him, 
and hastily covered up her legs with her 
gown-skirt, and drew down the sleeves over 
her arms, but otherwise stirred not. As for 
him, he stood still, striving to speak to her ; 
but no word might he bring out, and his 
heart beat sorely. 

But the maiden spake to him in a clear 
sweet voice, wherein was now no trouble : 
Thou art an alien, art thou not ? For I have 
not seen thee before. 

Yea, he said, I am an alien ; wilt thou be 
good to me ? 

She said : And why not ? I was afraid at 
first, for I thought it had been the King's 
Son. I looked to see none other ; for of goodly 
men he has been the only one here in the 
land this long while, till thy coming. 

He said : Didst thou look for my coming 
at about this time ? 

O nay, she said ; how might I ? 

Said Walter: I wot not; but the other 
man seemed to be looking for me, and knew 
of me, and he brought me bread to eat. 


She looked on him anxiously, and grew 
somewhat pale, as she said : What other 

Now Walter did not know what the 
dwarf might be to her, fellow-servant or 
what not, so he would not show his loathing 
of him ; but answered wisely : The little 
man in the yellow raiment. 

But when she heard that word, she went 
suddenly very pale, and leaned her head 
aback, and beat the air with her hands ; but 
said presently in a faint voice : I pray thee 
talk not of that one while I am by, nor even 
think of him, if thou mayest forbear. 

He spake not, and she was a little while 
before she came to herself again ; then she 
opened her eyes, and looked upon Walter and 
smiled kindly on him, as though to ask his 
pardon for having scared him. Then she 
rose up in her place, and stood before him ; 
and they were nigh together, for the stream 
betwixt them was little. 

But he still looked anxiously upon her and 
said : Have I hurt thee ? I pray thy pardon. 

She looked on him more sweetly still, and 
said : O nay ; thou wouldst not hurt me, thou ! 

Then she blushed very red, and he in 
like wise ; but afterwards she turned pale, 


and laid a hand on her breast, and Walter 
cried out hastily : O me ! I have hurt thee 
again. Wherein have I done amiss ? 

In nought, in nought, she said ; but I am 
troubled, I wot not wherefore ; some thought 
hath taken hold of me, and I know it not. 
Mayhappen in a little while I shall know 
what troubles me. Now I bid thee depart 
from me a little, and I will abide here ; and 
when thou comest back, it will either be 
that I have found it out or not ; and in either 
case I will tell thee. 

She spoke earnestly to him ; but he said : 
How long shall I abide away ? Her face 
was troubled as she answered him : For no 
long while. 

He smiled on her and turned away, and 
went a space to the other side of the oak- 
trees, whence she was still within eye-shot. 
There he abode until the time seemed long 
to him ; but he schooled himself and forbore ; 
for he said : Lest she send me away again. 
So he abided until again the time seemed 
long to him, and she called not to him : but 
once again he forbore to go ; then at last he 
arose, and his heart beat and he trembled, 
and he walked back again speedily, and came 
to the maiden, who was still standing by the 


rock of the spring, her arms hanging down, 
her eyes downcast. She looked up at him 
as he drew nigh, and her face changed with 
eagerness as she said : I am glad thou art 
come back, though it be no long while since 
thy departure (sooth to say it was scarce half 
an hour in all). Nevertheless I have been 
thinking many things, and thereof will I now 
tell thee. 

He said : Maiden, there is a river betwixt 
us, though it be no big one. Shall I not 
stride over, and come to thee, that we may 
sit down together side by side on the green 
grass ? 

Nay, she said, not yet ; tarry a while till 
I have told thee of matters. I must now tell 
thee of my thoughts in order. 

Her colour went and came now, and she 
plaited the folds of her gown with restless 
ringers. At last she said : Now the first 
thing is this ; that though thou hast seen me 
first only within this hour, thou hast set thine 
heart upon me to have me for thy speech- 
friend and thy darling. And if this be not so, 
then is all my speech, yea and all my hope, 
come to an end at once. 

O yea ! said Walter, even so it is : but 
how thou hast found this out I wot not ; 


since now for the first time I say it, that thou 
art indeed my love, and my dear and my 

Hush, she said, hush ! lest the wood have 
ears, and thy speech is loud : abide, and I 
shall tell thee how I know it. Whether this 
thy love shall outlast the first time that thou 
holdest my body in thine arms, I wot not, 
nor dost thou. But sore is my hope that it 
may be so ; for I also, though it be but 
scarce an hour since I set eyes on thee, have 
cast mine eyes on thee to have thee for my 
love and my darling, and my speech-friend. 
And this is how I wot that thou lovest me, 
my friend. Now is all this dear and joyful, 
and overflows my heart with sweetness. But 
now must I tell thee of the fear and the evil 
which lieth behind it. 

Then Walter stretched out his hands to 
her, and cried out : Yea, yea ! But whatever 
evil entangle us, now we both know these 
two things, to wit, that thou lovest me, and 
I thee, wilt thou not come hither, that I may 
cast mine arms about thee, and kiss thee, if 
not thy kind lips or thy friendly face at all, 
yet at least thy dear hand : yea, that I may 
touch thy body in some wise ? 

She looked on him steadily, and said softly : 


Nay, this above all things must not be ; and 
that it may not be is a part of the evil which 
entangles us. But hearken, friend, once again 
I tell thee that thy voice is over loud in this 
wilderness fruitful of evil. Now I have told 
thee, indeed, of two things whereof we both 
wot ; but next I must needs tell thee of 
things whereof I wot, and thou wottest not. 
Yet this were better, that thou pledge thy 
word not to touch so much as one of my 
hands, and that we go together a little way 
hence away from these tumbled stones, and 
sit down upon the open greensward ; whereas 
here is cover if there be spying abroad. 

Again, as she spoke, she turned very pale ; 
but Walter said : Since it must be so, I pledge 
thee my word to thee as I love thee. 

And therewith she knelt down, and did on 
her foot-gear, and then sprang lightly over 
the rivulet ; and then the twain of them 
went side by side some half a furlong thence, 
and sat down, shadowed by the boughs of a 
slim quicken-tree growing up out of the 
greensward, whereon for a good space around 
was neither bush nor brake. 

There began the maiden to talk soberly, 
and said : This is what I must needs say to 
thee now, that thou art come into a land 

perilous for any one that loveth aught of 
good ; from which, forsooth, I were fain that 
thou wert gotten away safely, even though I 
should die of longing for thee. As for myself, 
my peril is, in a measure, less than thine ; I 
mean the peril of death. But lo, thou, this 
iron on my foot is token that I am a thrall, 
and thou knowest in what wise thralls must 
pay for transgressions. Furthermore, of what 
I am, and how I came hither, time would 
fail me to tell ; but somewhile, maybe, I shall 
tell thee. I serve an evil mistress, of whom 
I may say that scarce I wot if she be a 
woman or not ; but by some creatures is she 
accounted for a god, and as a god is heried ; 
and surely never god was crueller nor colder 
than she. Me she hateth sorely ; yet if she 
hated me little or nought, small were the 
gain to me if it were her pleasure to deal 
hardly by me. But as things now are, and 
are like to be, it would not be for her 
pleasure, but for her pain and loss, to make 
an end of me, therefore, as I said e'en now, 
my mere life is not in peril with her ; unless, 
perchance, some sudden passion get the better 
of her, and she slay me, and repent of it 
thereafter. For so it is, that if it be the 
least evil of her conditions that she is wanton, 

65 F 

at least wanton she is to the letter. Many a 
time hath she cast the net for the catching 
of some goodly young man ; and her latest 
prey (save it be thou) is the young man whom 
I named, when first I saw thee, by the name 
of the King's Son. He is with us yet, and I 
fear him ; for of late hath he wearied of her, 
though it is but plain truth to say of her, 
that she is the wonder of all Beauties of the 
World. He hath wearied of her, I say, and 
hath cast his eyes upon me, and if I were 
heedless, he would betray me to the uttermost 
of the wrath of my mistress. For needs must 
I say of him, though he be a goodly man, 
and now fallen into thralldom, that he hath 
no bowels of compassion ; but is a dastard, 
who for an hour's pleasure would undo me, 
and thereafter stand by smiling and taking 
my mistress's pardon with good cheer, while 
for me would be no pardon. Seest thou, 
therefore, how it is with me between these 
two cruel fools ? And moreover there are 
others of whom I will not even speak to thee. 

And therewith she put her hands before 
her face, and wept, and murmured : Who 
shall deliver me from this death in life ? 

But Walter cried out : For what else am 
I come hither, I, I ? 


And it was a near thing that he did not 
take her in his arms, but he remembered his 
pledged word/ and drew aback from her in 
terror, whereas he had an inkling of why she 
would not suffer it ; and he wept with her. 

But suddenly the Maid left weeping, and 
said in a changed voice : Friend, whereas 
thou speakest of delivering me, it is more 
like that I shall deliver thee. And now I 
pray thy pardon for thus grieving thee with 
my grief, and that more especially because 
thou mayst not solace thy grief with kisses 
and caresses ; but so it was, that for once I 
was smitten by the thought of the anguish of 
this land, and the joy of all the world 

Therewith she caught her breath in a half- 
sob, but refrained her and went on : Now 
dear friend and darling, take good heed to all 
that I shall say to thee, whereas thou must 
do after the teaching of my words. And 
first, I deem by the monster having met thee 
at the gates of the land, and refreshed thee, 
that the Mistress hath looked for thy coming ; 
nay, by thy coming hither at all, that she 
hath cast her net and caught thee. Hast thou 
noted aught that might seem to make this 
more like ? 

Said Walter : Three times in full daylight 
have I seen go past me the images of the 
monster and thee and a glorious lady, even as 
if ye were alive. 

And therewith he told her in few words 
how it had gone with him since that day on 
the quay at Langton. 

She said : Then it is no longer perhaps, 
but certain, that thou art her latest catch ; 
and even so I deemed from the first : and, 
dear friend, this is why I have not suffered 
thee to kiss or caress me, so sore as I longed 
for thee. For the Mistress will have thee 
for her only, and hath lured thee hither for 
nought else ; and she is wise in wizardry 
(even as some deal am I), and wert thou 
to touch me with hand or mouth on my 
naked flesh, yea, or were it even my raiment, 
then would she scent the savour of thy love 
upon me, and then, though it may be she 
would spare thee, she would not spare me. 

Then was she silent a little, and seemed 
very downcast, and Walter held his peace 
from grief and confusion and helplessness ; 
for of wizardry he knew nought. 

At last the Maid spake again, and said : 
Nevertheless we will not die redeless. Now 
thou must look to this, that from hence- 


forward it is thee, and not the King's Son, 
whom she desireth, and that so much the 
more that she hath not set eyes on thee. 
Remember this, whatsoever her seeming 
may be to thee. Now, therefore, shall the 
King's Son be free, though he know it not, 
to cast his love on whomso he will ; and, in 
a way, I also shall be free to yeasay him. 
Though, forsooth, so fulfilled is she with 
malice and spite, that even then she may 
turn round on me to punish me for doing 
that which she would have me do. Now 
let me think of it. 

Then was she silent a good while, and 
spoke at last : Yea, all things are perilous, 
and a perilous rede I have thought of, 
whereof I will not tell thee as yet ; so waste 
not the short while by asking me. At least 
the worst will be no worse than what shall 
come if we strive not against it. And now, 
my friend, amongst perils it is growing more 
and more perilous that we twain should be 
longer together. But I would say one thing 
yet ; and maybe another thereafter. Thou 
hast cast thy love upon one who will be true 
to thee, whatsoever may befall ; yet is she a 
guileful creature, and might not help it her 
life long, and now for thy very sake must 

needs be more guileful now than ever before. 
And as for me, the guileful, my love have I 
cast upon a lovely man, and one true and 
simple, and a stout-heart ; but at such a 
pinch is he, that if he withstand all tempta- 
tion, his withstanding may belike undo both 
him and me. Therefore swear we both of 
us, that by both of us shall all guile and 
all falling away be forgiven on the day when 
we shall be free to love each the other as 
our hearts will. 

Walter cried out : O love, I swear it 
indeed! thou art my Hallow, and I will 
swear it as on the relics of a Hallow ; on thy 
hands and thy feet I swear it. 

The words seemed to her a dear caress ; 
and she laughed, and blushed, and looked 
full kindly on him ; and then her face grew 
solemn, and she said : On thy life I swear 

Then she said : Now is there nought for 
thee to do but to go hence straight to the 
Golden House, which is my Mistress's house, 
and the only house in this land (save one 
which I may not see), and lieth southward 
no long way. How she will deal with thee, 
I wot not ; but all I have said of her and 
thee and the King's Son is true. Therefore 


I say to thee, be wary and cold at heart, 
whatsoever outward semblance thou mayst 
make. If thou have to yield thee to her, 
then yield rather late than early, so as to 
gain time. Yet not so late as to seem shamed 
in yielding for fear's sake. Hold fast to thy 
life, my friend, for in warding that, thou 
wardest me from grief without remedy. Thou 
wilt see me ere long ; it may be to-morrow, 
it may be some days hence. But forget not, 
that what I may do, that I am doing. Take 
heed also that thou pay no more heed to 
me, or rather less, than if thou wert meeting 
a maiden of no account in the streets of thine 
own town. O my love! barren is this first 
farewell, as was our first meeting ; but surely 
shall there be another meeting better than 
the first, and the last farewell may be long 
and long yet. 

Therewith she stood up, and he knelt 
before her a little while without any word, 
and then arose and went his ways ; but when 
he had gone a space he turned about, and 
saw her still standing in the same place ; 
she stayed a moment when she saw him 
turn, and then herself turned about. 

So he departed through the fair land, and his 
heart was full with hope and fear as he went. 

7 1 


IT was but a little after noon when 
Walter left the Maid behind: he 
steered south by the sun, as the Maid 
had bidden him, and went swiftly ; for, as a 
good knight wending to battle, the time 
seemed long to him till he should meet the 

So an hour before sunset he saw something 
white and gay gleaming through the boles 
of the oak-trees, and presently there was clear 
before him a most goodly house builded of 
white marble, carved all about with knots 
and imagery, and the carven folk were all 
painted of their lively colours, whether it 
were their raiment or their flesh, and the 
housings wherein they stood all done with 
gold and fair hues. Gay were the windows 
of the house ; and there was a pillared porch 


before the great door, with images betwixt 
the pillars both of men and beasts : and 
when Walter looked up to the roof of the 
house, he saw that it gleamed and shone ; 
for all the tiles were of yellow metal, which 
he deemed to be of very gold. 

All this he saw as he went, and tarried 
not to gaze upon it ; for he said, belike there 
will be time for me to look on all this before 
I die. But he said also, that, though the 
house was not of the greatest, it was beyond 
compare of all houses of the world. 

Now he entered it by the porch, and 
came into a hall many-pillared, and vaulted 
over, the walls painted with gold and ultra- 
marine, the floor dark, and spangled with 
many colours, and the windows glazed with 
knots and pictures. Midmost thereof was a 
fountain of gold, whence the water ran two 
ways in gold-lined runnels, spanned twice 
with little bridges of silver. Long was that 
hall, and now not very light, so that Walter 
was come past the fountain before he saw 
any folk therein : then he looked up toward 
the high-seat, and him-seemed that a great 
light shone thence, and dazzled his eyes ; 
and he went on a little way, and then fell on 
his knees ; for there before him on the 


high-seat sat that wondrous Lady, whose 
lively image had been shown to him thrice 
before ; and she was clad in gold and jewels, 
as he had erst seen her. But now she was 
not alone ; for by her side sat a young man, 
goodly enough, so far as Walter might see 
him, and most richly clad, with a jewelled 
sword by his side, and a chaplet of gems on 
his head. They held each other by the 
hand, and seemed to be in dear converse 
together ; but they spake softly, so that 
Walter might not hear what they said, till 
at last the man spake aloud to the Lady : 
Seest thou not that there is a man in the 
hall ? 

Yea, she said, I see him yonder, kneeling 
on his knees ; let him come nigher and give 
some account of himself. 

So Walter stood up and drew nigh, and 
stood there, all shamefaced and confused, 
looking on those twain, and wondering at 
the beauty of the Lady. As for the man, 
who was slim, and black-haired, and straight- 
featured, for all his goodliness Walter ac- 
counted him little, and nowise deemed him 
to look chieftain-like. 

Now the Lady spake not to Walter any 
more than erst ; but at last the man said : 


Why doest thou not kneel as thou didst ere- 
while ? 

Walter was on the point of giving him 
back a fierce answer ; but the Lady spake 
and said : Nay, friend, it matters not whether 
he kneel or stand ; but he may say, if he will, 
what he would have of me, and wherefore he 
is come hither. 

Then spake Walter, for as wroth and 
ashamed as he was : Lady, I have strayed 
into this land, and have come to thine house 
as I suppose, and if I be not welcome, I may 
well depart straightway, and seek a way out 
of thy land, if thou wouldst drive me thence, 
as well as out of thine house. 

Thereat the Lady turned and looked on 
him, and when her eyes met his, he felt a 
pang of fear and desire mingled shoot through 
his heart. This time she spoke to him ; but 
coldly, without either wrath or any thought 
of him : New-comer, she said, I have not 
bidden thee hither; but here mayst thou 
abide a while if thou wilt ; nevertheless, take 
heed that here is no King's Court. There 
is, forsooth, a folk that serveth me (or, it 
may be, more than one), of whom thou wert 
best to know nought. Of others I have but 
two servants, whom thou wilt see ; and the 


one is a strange creature, who should scare 
thee or scathe thee with a good will, but of 
a good will shall serve nought save me ; the 
other is a woman, a thrall, of little avail, save 
that, being compelled, she will work woman's 
service for me, but whom none else shall 
compel. . . . Yea, but what is all this to 
thee ; or to me that I should tell it to thee ? 
I will not drive thee away ; but if thine 
entertainment please thee not, make no plaint 
thereof to me, but depart at thy will. Now 
is this talk betwixt us overlong, since, as thou 
seest, I and this King's Son are in converse 
together. Art thou a King's Son ? 

Nay, Lady, said Walter, I am but of the 
sons of the merchants. 

It matters not, she said ; go thy ways into 
one of the chambers. 

And straightway she fell a-talking to the 
man who sat beside her concerning the sing- 
ing of the birds beneath her window in the 
morning ; and of how she had bathed her 
that day in a pool of the woodlands, when 
she had been heated with hunting, and so 
forth ; and all as if there had been none there 
save her and the King's Son. 

But Walter departed all ashamed, as though 
he had been a poor man thrust away from a 

rich kinsman's door ; and he said to himself 
that this woman was hateful, and nought love- 
worthy, and that she was little like to tempt 
him, despite all the fairness of her body. 

No one else he saw in the house that even : 
he found meat and drink duly served on a fair 
table, and thereafter he came on a goodly bed, 
and all things needful, but no child of Adam 
to do him service, or bid him welcome or 
warning. Nevertheless he ate, and drank, 
and slept, and put off thought of all these 
things till the morrow, all the more as he 
hoped to see the kind maiden some time 
betwixt sunrise and sunset on that new day. 



HE arose betimes, but found no one to 
greet him, neither was there any 
sound of folk moving within the 
fair house ; so he but broke his fast, and then 
went forth and wandered amongst the trees, 
till he found him a stream to bathe in, and 
after he had washed the night off him he lay 
down under a tree thereby for a while, but 
soon turned back toward the house, lest per- 
chance the Maid should come thither and he 
should miss her. 

It should be said that half a bow-shot from 
the house on that side (i.e. due north thereof) 
was a little hazel-brake, and round about it 
the trees were smaller of kind than the oaks 
and chestnuts he had passed through before, 
being mostly of birch and quicken-beam and 
young ash, with small wood betwixt them ; 


so now he passed through the thicket, and, 
coming to the edge thereof, beheld the Lady 
and the King's Son walking together hand in 
hand, full lovingly by seeming. 

He deemed it unmeet to draw back and 
hide him, so he went forth past them toward 
the house. The King's Son scowled on him 
as he passed, but the Lady, over whose 
beauteous face flickered the joyous morning 
smiles, took no more heed of him than if he 
had been one of the trees of the wood. But 
she had been so high and disdainful with him 
the evening before, that he thought little of 
that. The twain went on, skirting the hazel- 
copse, and he could not choose but turn his 
eyes on them, so sorely did the Lady's beauty 
draw them. Then befell another thing ; for 
behind them the boughs of the hazels parted, 
and there stood that little evil thing, he or 
another of his kind ; for he was quite unclad, 
save by his fell of yellowy-brown hair, and 
that he was girt with a leathern girdle, 
wherein was stuck an ugly two-edged knife : 
he stood upright a moment, and cast his eyes 
at Walter and grinned, but not as if he knew 
him; and scarce could Walter say whether 
it were the one he had seen, or another : then 
he cast himself down on his belly, and fell to 


creeping through the long grass like a serpent, 
following the footsteps of the Lady and her 
lover ; and now, as he crept, Walter deemed, 
in his loathing, that the creature was liker to 
a ferret than aught else. He crept on mar- 
vellous swiftly, and was soon clean out of 
sight. But Walter stood staring after him 
for a while, and then lay down by the copse- 
side, that he might watch the house and the 
entry thereof; for he thought, now perchance 
presently will the kind maiden come hither 
to comfort me with a word or two. But 
hour passed by hour, and still she came not ; 
and still he lay there, and thought of the 
Maid, and longed for her kindness and 
wisdom, till he could not refrain his tears, 
and wept for the lack of her. Then he arose, 
and went and sat in the porch, and was very 
downcast of mood. 

But as he sat there, back comes the Lady 
again, the King's Son leading her by the 
hand ; they entered the porch, and she passed 
by him so close that the odour of her rai- 
ment filled all the air about him, and the 
sleekness of her side nigh touched him, so 
that he could not fail to note that her gar- 
ments were somewhat disarrayed, and that 
she kept her right hand (for her left the 


King's Son held) to her bosom to hold the 
cloth together there, whereas the rich raiment 
had been torn off from her right shoulder. As 
they passed by him, the King's Son once more 
scowled on him, wordless, but even more 
fiercely than before ; and again the Lady 
heeded him nought. 

After they had gone on a while, he entered 
the hall, and found it empty from end to end, 
and no sound in it save the tinkling of the 
fountain ; but there was! set on the 
board. He ate and drank thereof to keep life 
lusty within him, and then went out again to 
the wood-side to watch and to long ; and the 
time hung heavy on his hands because of the 
lack of the fair Maiden. 

He was of mind not to go into the house 
to his rest that night, but to sleep under the 
boughs of the forest. But a little after sun- 
set he saw a bright-clad image moving amidst 
the carven images of the porch, and the King's 
Son came forth and went straight to him, and 
said : Thou art to enter the house, and go 
into thy chamber forthwith, and by no means 
to go forth of it betwixt sunset and sunrise. 
My Lady will not away with thy prowling 
round the house in the night-tide. 

Therewith he turned away, and went into 
81 G 

the house again ; and Walter followed him 
soberly, remembering how the Maid had 
bidden him forbear. So he went to his 
chamber, and slept. 

But amidst of the night he awoke and 
deemed that he heard a voice not far off, so 
he crept out of his bed and peered around, 
lest, perchance, the Maid had come to speak 
with him ; but his chamber was dusk and 
empty : then he went to the window and 
looked out, and saw the moon shining bright 
and white upon the greensward. And lo! 
the Lady walking with the King's Son, and 
he clad in thin and wanton raiment, but she 
in nought else save what God had given her 
of long, crispy yellow hair. Then was Walter 
ashamed to look on her, seeing that there was 
a man with her, and gat him back to his bed ; 
but yet a long while ere he slept again he had 
the image before his eyes of the fair woman 
on the dewy moonlit grass. 

The next day matters went much the same 
way, and the next also, save that his sorrow 
was increased, and he sickened sorely of hope 
deferred. On the fourth day also the fore- 
noon wore as erst ; but in the heat of the 
afternoon Walter sought to the hazel-copse, 
and laid him down there hard by a little 


clearing thereof, and slept from very weariness 
of grief. There, after a while, he woke with 
words still hanging in his ears, and he knew 
at once that it was they twain talking to- 

The King's Son had just done his say, and 
now it was the Lady beginning in her honey- 
sweet voice, low but strong, wherein even was 
a little of huskiness ; she said : Otto, belike 
it were well to have a little patience, till we 
find out what the man is, and whence he 
cometh ; it will always be easy to rid us of 
him ; it is but a word to our Dwarf-king, 
and it will be done in a few minutes. 

Patience ! said the King's Son, angrily ; I 
wot not how to have patience with him ; for 
I can see of him that he is rude and violent 
and headstrong, and a low-born wily one. 
Forsooth, he had patience enough with me 
the other even, when I rated him in, like 
the dog that he is, and he had no manhood 
to say one word to me. Soothly, as he 
followed after me, I had a mind to turn 
about and deal him a buffet on the face, to 
see if I could but draw one angry word from 

The Lady laughed, and said : Well, Otto, 
I know not ; that which thou deemest das- 


tardy in him may be but prudence and 
wisdom, and he an alien, far from his friends 
and nigh to his foes. Perchance we shall 
yet try him what he is. Meanwhile, I rede 
thee try him not with buffets, save he be 
weaponless and with bounden hands ; or else 
I deem that but a little while shalt thou be 
fain of thy blow. 

Now when Walter heard her words and 
the voice wherein they were said, he might 
not forbear being stirred by them, and to him, 
all lonely there, they seemed friendly. 

But he lay still, and the King's Son answered 
the Lady and said : I know not what is in 
thine heart concerning this runagate, that 
thou shouldst bemock me with his valiancy, 
whereof thou knowest nought. If thou deem 
me unworthy of thee, send me back safe to 
my father's country ; I may look to have 
worship there ; yea, and the love of fair 
women belike. 

Therewith it seemed as if he had put forth 
his hand to the Lady to caress her, for she 
said : Nay, lay not thine hand on my shoulder, 
for to-day and now it is not the hand of love, 
but of pride and folly, and would-be mastery. 
Nay, neither shalt thou rise up and leave me 
until thy mood is softer and kinder to me. 

Then was there silence betwixt them a 
while, and thereafter the King's Son spake 
in a wheedling voice : My goddess, I pray 
thee pardon me ! But canst thou wonder 
that I fear thy wearying of me, and am 
therefore peevish and jealous ? thou so far 
above the Queens of the World, and I a poor 
youth that without thee were nothing ! 

She answered nought, and he went on 
again : Was it not so, O goddess, that this 
man of the sons of the merchants was little 
heedful of thee, and thy loveliness and thy 
majesty ? 

She laughed and said : Maybe he deemed 
not that he had much to gain of us, seeing 
thee sitting by our side, and whereas we 
spake to him coldly and sternly and disdain- 
fully. Withal, the poor youth was dazzled 
and shamefaced before us ; that we could see 
in the eyes and the mien of him. 

Now this she spoke so kindly and sweetly, 
that again was Walter all stirred thereat ; 
and it came into his mind that it might be 
she knew he was anigh and hearing her, and 
that she spake as much for him as for the 
King's Son : but that one answered : Lady, 
didst thou not see somewhat else in his eyes, 
to wit, that they had but of late looked on 


some fair woman other than thee ? As for 
me, I deem it not so unlike that on the way 
to thine hall he may have fallen in with thy 

He spoke in a faltering voice, as if shrinking 
from some storm that might come. And 
forsooth the Lady's voice was changed as she 
answered, though there was no outward heat 
in it ; rather it was sharp and eager and cold 
at once. She said : Yea, that is not ill thought 
of; but we may not always keep our thrall 
in mind. If it be so as thou deemest, we 
shall come to know it most like when we 
next fall in with her ; or if she hath been 
shy this time, then shall she pay the heavier 
for it ; for we will question her by the 
Fountain in the Hall as to what betid by the 
Fountain of the Rock. 

Spake the King's Son, faltering yet more : 
Lady, were it not better to question the man 
himself? the Maid is stout-hearted, and will 
not be speedily quelled into a true tale ; 
whereas the man I deem of no account. 

No, no, said the Lady sharply, it shall 
not be. 

Then was she silent a while ; and then 
she said : How if the man should prove to 
be our master ? 


Nay, our Lady, said the King's Son, thou 
art jesting with me ; thou and thy might 
and thy wisdom, and all that thy wisdom 
may command, to be over-mastered by a 
gangrel churl! 

But how if I will not have it command, 
King's Son ? said the Lady : I tell thee I 
know thine heart, but thou knowest not 
mine. But be at peace! For since thou 
hast prayed for this woman . . . nay, not 
with thy words, I wot, but with thy trembling 
hands, and thine anxious eyes, and knitted 
brow ... I say, since thou hast prayed for 
her so earnestly, she shall escape this time. 
But whether it will be to her gain in the 
long run, I misdoubt me. See thou to that, 
Otto! thou who hast held me in thine arms 
so oft. And now thou mayest depart if thou 

It seemed to Walter as if the King's Son 
were dumbfoundered at her words : he 
answered nought, and presently he rose from 
the ground, and went his ways slowly toward 
the house. The Lady lay there a little while, 
and then went her ways also ; but turned 
away from the house toward the wood at the 
other end thereof, whereby Walter had first 
come thither. 


As for Walter, he was confused in mind 
and shaken in spirit ; and withal he seemed 
to see guile and cruel deeds under the talk 
of those two, and waxed wrathful thereat. 
Yet he said to himself, that nought might he 
do, but was as one bound hand and foot, till 
he had seen the Maid again. 


NEXT morning was he up betimes, 
but he was cast down and heavy of 
heart, not looking for aught else to 
betide than had betid those last four days. 
But otherwise it fell out ; for when he came 
down into the hall, there was the Lady sitting 
on the high-seat all alone, clad but in a coat 
of white linen ; and she turned her head 
when she heard his footsteps, and looked on 
him, and greeted him, and said : Come hither, 

So he went and stood before her, and she 
said : Though as yet thou hast had no 
welcome here, and no honour, it hath not 
entered into thine heart to flee from us ; and 
to say sooth, that is well for thee, for flee 
away from our hand thou mightest not, nor 
mightest thou depart without our furtherance. 

But for this we can thee thank, that thou 
hast abided here our bidding, and eaten thine 
heart through the heavy wearing of four 
days, and made no plaint. Yet I cannot deem 
thee a dastard ; thou so well knit and shapely 
of body, so clear-eyed and bold of visage. 
Wherefore now I ask thee, art thou willing 
to do me service, thereby to earn thy guest- 

Walter answered her, somewhat faltering 
at first, for he was astonished at the change 
which had come over her ; for now she spoke 
to him in friendly wise, though indeed as a 
great lady would speak to a young man ready 
to serve her in all honour. Said he : Lady, 
I can thee thank humbly and heartily in 
that thou biddest me do thee service ; for 
these days past I have loathed the emptiness 
of the hours, and nought better could I ask 
for than to serve so glorious a Mistress in all 

She frowned somewhat, and said : Thou 
shalt not call me Mistress ; there is but one 
who so calleth me, that is my thrall ; and 
thou art none such. Thou shalt call me 
Lady, and I shall be well pleased that thou 
be my squire, and for this present thou shalt 
serve me in the hunting. So get thy gear ; 


take thy bow and arrows, and gird thee to 
thy sword. For in this fair land may one 
find beasts more perilous than be buck or 
hart. I go now to array me ; we will depart 
while the day is yet young ; for so make we 
the summer day the fairest. 

He made obeisance to her, and she arose 
and went to her chamber, and Walter dight 
himself, and then abode her in the porch ; 
and in less than an hour she came out of the 
hall, and Walter's heart beat when he saw 
that the Maid followed her hard at heel, and 
scarce might he school his eyes not to gaze 
over-eagerly at his dear friend. She was 
clad even as she was before, and was changed 
in no wise, save that love troubled her face 
when she first beheld him, and she had much 
ado to master it : howbeit the Mistress heeded 
not the trouble of her, or made no semblance 
of heeding it, till the Maiden's face was all 
according to its wont. 

But this Walter found strange, that after 
all that disdain of the Maid's thralldom 
which he had heard of the Mistress, and after 
all the threats against her, now was the 
Mistress become mild and debonaire to her, 
as a good lady to her good maiden. When 
Walter bowed the knee to her, she turned 

9 1 

unto the Maid, and said : Look thou, my 
Maid, at this fair new Squire that I have 
gotten ! Will not he be valiant in the green- 
wood ? And see whether he be well shapen 
or not. Doth he not touch thine heart, 
when thou thinkest of all the woe, and fear, 
and trouble of the Wood beyond the World, 
which he hath escaped, to dwell in this little 
land peaceably, and well-beloved both by the 
Mistress and the Maid ? And thou, my 
Squire, look a little at this fair slim Maiden, 
and say if she pleaseth thee not : didst thou 
deem that we had any thing so fair in this 
lonely place ? 

Frank and kind was the smile on her 
radiant visage, nor did she seem to note any 
whit the trouble on Walter's face, nor how 
he strove to keep his eyes from the Maid. 
As for her, she had so wholly mastered her 
countenance, that belike she used her face 
guilefully, for she stood as one humble but 
happy, with a smile on her face, blush- 
ing, and with her head hung down as if 
shamefaced before a goodly young man, a 

But the Lady looked upon her kindly and 
said : Come hither, child, and fear not this 
frank and free young man, who belike feareth 


thee a little, and full certainly feareth me ; 
and yet only after the manner of men. 

And therewith she took the Maid by the 
hand and drew her to her, and pressed her to 
her bosom, and kissed her cheeks and her 
lips, and undid the lacing of her gown and 
bared a shoulder of her, and swept away her 
skirt from her feet; and then turned to Walter 
and said : Lo thou, Squire ! is not this a 
lovely thing to have grown up amongst our 
rough oak-boles ? What ! art thou looking 
at the iron ring there ? It is nought, save a 
token that she is mine, and that I may not 
be without her. 

Then she took the Maid by the shoulders 
and turned her about as in sport, and said : 
Go thou now, and bring hither the good grey 
ones ; for needs must we bring home some 
venison to-day, whereas this stout warrior 
may not feed on nought save manchets and 

So the Maid went her way, taking care, 
as Walter deemed, to give no side glance to 
him. But he stood there shamefaced, so 
confused with all this open-hearted kindness 
of the great Lady and with the fresh sight of 
the darling beauty of the Maid, that he went 
nigh to thinking that all he had heard since 


he had come to the porch of the house that 
first time was but a dream of evil. 

But while he stood pondering these 
matters, and staring before him as one mazed, 
the Lady laughed out in his face, and touched 
him on the arm and said : Ah, our Squire, 
is it so that now thou hast seen my Maid 
thou wouldst with a good will abide behind 
to talk with her ? But call to mind thy word 
pledged to me e'en now ! And moreover I 
tell thee this for thy behoof now she is out 
of ear-shot, that I will above all things take 
thee away to-day : for there be other eyes, 
and they nought uncomely, that look at 
whiles on my fair-ankled thrall ; and who 
knows but the swords might be out if I take 
not the better heed, and give thee not every 
whit of thy will. 

As she spoke and moved forward, he 
turned a little, so that now the edge of that 
hazel coppice was within his eye-shot, and 
he deemed that once more he saw the yellow- 
brown evil thing crawling forth from the 
thicket ; then, turning suddenly on the Lady, 
he met her eyes, and seemed in one moment 
of time to find a far other look in them than 
that of frankness and kindness ; though in a 
flash they changed back again, and she said 


merrily and sweetly : So so, Sir Squire, now 
art thou awake again, and mayest for a little 
while look on me. 

Now it came into his head, with that look 
of hers, all that might befall him and the 
Maid if he mastered not his passion, nor did 
what he might to dissemble ; so he bent the 
knee to her, and spoke boldly to her in her 
own vein, and said : Nay, most gracious of 
ladies, never would I abide behind to-day 
since thou farest afield. But if my speech 
be hampered, or mine eyes stray, is it not 
because my mind is confused by thy beauty, 
and the honey of kind words which floweth 
from thy mouth ? 

She laughed outright at his word, but not 
disdainfully, and said : This is well spoken, 
Squire, and even what a squire should say to 
his liege lady, when the sun is up on a fair 
morning, and she and he and all the world 
are glad. 

She stood quite near him^as she spoke, her 
hand was on his shoulder, and her eyes shone 
and sparkled. Sooth to say, that excusing of 
his confusion was like enough in seeming to 
the truth ; for sure never creature was 
fashioned fairer than she : clad she was for 
the greenwood as the hunting-goddess of the 


Gentiles, with her green gown gathered unto 
her girdle, and sandals on her feet ; a bow in 
her hand and a quiver at her back : she was 
taller and bigger of fashion than the dear 
Maiden, whiter of flesh, and more glorious, 
and brighter of hair ; as a flower of flowers 
for fairness and fragrance. 

She said : Thou art verily a fair squire 
before the hunt is up, and if thou be as good 
in the hunting, all will be better than well, 
and the guest will be welcome. But lo! 
here cometh our Maid with the good grey 
ones. Go meet her, and we will tarry no 
longer than for thy taking the leash in hand. 

So Walter looked, and saw the Maid coming 
with two couple of great hounds in the leash 
straining against her as she came along. He 
ran lightly to meet her, wondering if he should 
have a look, or a half-whisper from her ; but 
she let him take the white thongs from her 
hand, with the same half-smile of shame- 
facedness still set on her face, and, going past 
him, came softly up to the Lady, swaying 
like a willow-branch in the wind, and stood 
before her, with her arms hanging down by 
her sides. Then the Lady turned to her, and 
said : Look to thyself, our Maid, while we 
are away. This fair young man thou needest 


not to fear indeed, for he is good and leal ; 
but what thou shalt do with the King's Son 
I wot not. He is a hot lover forsooth, but a 
hard man ; and whiles evil is his mood, and 
perilous both to thee and me. And if thou 
do his will, it shall be ill for thee ; and if thou 
do it not, take heed of him, and let me, and 
me only, come between his wrath and thee. 
I may do somewhat for thee. Even yesterday 
he was instant with me to have thee chastised 
after the manner of thralls ; but I bade him 
keep silence of such words, and jeered him 
and mocked him, till he went away from me 
peevish and in anger. So look to it that 
thou fall not into any trap of his contrivance. 

Then the Maid cast herself at the Mistress's 
feet, and kissed and embraced them ; and as 
she rose up, the Lady laid her hand lightly 
on her head, and then, turning to Walter, 
cried out : Now, Squire, let us leave all these 
troubles and wiles and desires behind us, and 
flit through the merry greenwood like the 
Gentiles of old days. 

And therewith she drew up the laps of her 
gown till the whiteness of her knees was seen, 
and set off swiftly toward the wood that lay 
south of the house, and Walter followed, 
marvelling at her goodliness ; nor durst he 

97 H 

cast a look backward to the Maiden, for he 
knew that she desired him, and it was her 
only that he looked to for his deliverance 
from this house of guile and lies. 


AS they went, they found a change in 
the land, which grew emptier of big 
and wide-spreading trees, and more 
beset with thickets. From one of these they 
roused a hart, and Walter let slip his hounds 
thereafter, and he and the Lady followed 
running. Exceeding swift was she, and well- 
breathed withal, so that Walter wondered at 
her ; and eager she was in the chase as the very 
hounds, heeding nothing the scratching of 
briars or the whipping of stiff twigs as she 
sped on. But for all their eager hunting, the 
quarry outran both dogs and folk, and gat 
him into a great thicket, amidmost whereof 
was a wide plash of water. Into the thicket 
they followed him, but he took to the water 
under their eyes and made land on the other 
side ; and because of the tangle of underwood, 
he swam across much faster than they might 


have any hope to come round on him ; and 
so were the hunters left undone for that time. 

So the Lady cast herself down on the green 
grass anigh the water, while Walter blew the 
hounds in and coupled them up ; then he 
turned round to her, and lo ! she was weeping 
for despite that they had lost the quarry ; and 
again did Walter wonder that so little a 
matter should raise a passion of tears in her. 
He durst not ask what ailed her, or proffer 
her solace, but was not ill apaid by beholding 
her loveliness as she lay. 

Presently she raised up her head and turned 
to Walter, and spake to him angrily and said : 
Squire, why dost thou stand staring at me like 
a fool ? 

Yea, Lady, he said ; but the sight of thee 
maketh me foolish to do aught else but to 
look on thee. 

She said, in a peevish voice : Tush, Squire, 
the day is too far spent for soft and courtly 
speeches ; what was good there is nought so 
good here. Withal, I know more of thine 
heart than thou deemest. 

Walter hung down his head and reddened, 
and she looked on him, and her face changed, 
and she smiled and said, kindly this time : 
Look ye, Squire, I am hot and weary, and ill- 


content ; but presently it will be better with 
me ; for my knees have been telling my 
shoulders that the cold water of this little 
lake will be sweet and pleasant this summer 
noonday, and that I shall forget my foil when 
I have taken my pleasure therein. Where- 
fore, go thou with thine hounds without the 
thicket and there abide my coming. And I 
bid thee look not aback as thou goest, for 
therein were peril to thee : I shall not keep 
thee tarrying long alone. 

He bowed his head to her, and turned and 
went his ways. And now, when he was a 
little space away from her, he deemed her 
indeed a marvel of women, and well-nigh 
forgat all his doubts and fears concerning her, 
whether she were a fair image fashioned out 
of lies and guile, or it might be but an evil 
thing in the shape of a goodly woman. For- 
sooth, when he saw her caressing the dear and 
friendly Maid, his heart all turned against her, 
despite what his eyes and his ears told his 
mind, and she seemed like as it were a serpent 
enfolding the simplicity of the body which 
he loved. 

But now it was all changed, and he lay 
on the grass and longed for her coming ; 
which was delayed for somewhat more than 


an hour. Then she came back to him, 
smiling and fresh and cheerful, her green 
gown let down to her heels. 

He sprang up to meet her, and she came 
close to him, and spake from a laughing 
face : Squire, hast thou no meat in thy 
wallet ? For, meseemeth, I fed thee when 
thou wert hungry the other day ; do thou 
now the same by me. 

He smiled, and louted to her, and took 
his wallet and brought out thence bread and 
flesh and wine, and spread them all out 
before her on the green grass, and then stood 
by humbly before her. But she said : Nay, 
my Squire, sit down by me and eat with me, 
for to-day are we both hunters together. 

So he sat down by her trembling, but 
neither for awe of her greatness, nor for fear 
and horror of her guile and sorcery. 

A while they sat there together after they 
had done their meat, and the Lady fell 
a-talking with Walter concerning the parts 
of the earth, and the manners of men, and of 
his journeyings to and fro. 

At last she said : Thou hast told me much 
and answered all my questions wisely, and as 
my good Squire should, and that pleaseth 
me. But now tell me of the city wherein 


thou wert born and bred ; a city whereof 
thou hast hitherto told me nought. 

Lady, he said, it is a fair and a great city, 
and to many it seemeth lovely. But I have 
left it, and now it is nothing to me. 

Hast thou not kindred there ? said she. 

Yea, said he, and foemen withal ; and a 
false woman waylayeth my life there. 

And what was she ? said the Lady. 

Said Walter : She was but my wife. 

Was she fair ? said the Lady. 

Walter looked on her a while, and then 
said : I was going to say that she was well- 
nigh as fair as thou ; but that may scarce be. 
Yet was she very fair. But now, kind and 
gracious Lady, I will say this word to thee : 
I marvel that thou askest so many things 
concerning the city of Langton on Holm, 
where I was born, and where are my kindred 
yet ; for meseemeth that thou knowest it 

I know it, I ? said the Lady. 

What, then ! thou knowest it not ? said 

Spake the Lady, and some of her old 
disdain was in her words : Dost thou deem 
that I wander about the world and its cheap- 
ing-steads like one of the chapmen ? Nay, I 


dwell in the Wood beyond the World, and 
nowhere else. What hath put this word 
into thy mouth ? 

He said : Pardon me, Lady, if I have 
misdone ; but thus it was : Mine own eyes 
beheld thee going down the quays of our 
city, and thence a ship-board, and the ship 
sailed out of the haven. And first of all 
went a strange dwarf, whom I have seen 
here, and then thy Maid ; and then went 
thy gracious and lovely body. 

The Lady's face changed as he spoke, and 
she turned red and then pale, and set her 
teeth ; but she refrained her, and said : 
Squire, I see of thee that thou art no liar, 
nor light of wit, therefore I suppose that 
thou hast verily seen some appearance of 
me ; but never have I been in Langton, nor 
thought thereof, nor known that such a stead 
there was until thou namedst it e'en now. 
Wherefore, I deem that an enemy hath cast 
the shadow of me on the air of that land. 

Yea, my Lady, said Walter ; and what 
enemy mightest thou have to have done 
this ? 

She was slow of answer, but spake at last 
from a quivering mouth of anger : Knowest 
thou not the saw, that a man's foes are they 


of his own house ? If I find out for a truth 
who hath done this, the said enemy shall 
have an evil hour with me. 

Again she was silent, and she clenched 
her hands and strained her limbs in the heat 
of her anger ; so that Walter was afraid of 
her, and all his misgivings came back to 
his heart again, and he repented that he 
had told her so much. But in a little while 
all that trouble and wrath seemed to flow off 
her, and again was she of good cheer, and 
kind and sweet to him ; and she said : But 
in sooth, however it may be, I thank thee, 
my Squire and friend, for telling me hereof. 
And surely no wyte do I lay on thee. And, 
moreover, is it not this vision which hath 
brought thee hither ? 

So it is, Lady, said he. 

Then have we to thank it, said the Lady, 
and thou art welcome to our land. 

And therewith she held out her hand 
to him, and he took it on his knees and 
kissed it ; and then it was as if a red-hot 
iron had run through his heart, and he felt 
faint, and bowed 'down his head. But he 
held her hand yet, and kissed it many times, 
and the wrist and the arm, and knew not 
where he was. 


But she drew a little away from him, and 
arose and said : Now is the day wearing, 
and if we are to bear back any venison we 
must buckle to the work. So arise, Squire, 
and take the hounds and come with me ; 
for not far off is a little thicket which mostly 
harbours foison of deer, great and small. Let 
us come our ways. 



SO they walked on quietly thence some 
half a mile, and ever the Lady would 
have Walter to walk by her side, and 
not follow a little behind her, as was meet 
for a servant to do ; and she touched his hand 
at whiles as she showed him beast and fowl 
and tree, and the sweetness of her body over- 
came him, so that for a while he thought of 
nothing save her. 

Now when they were come to the thicket- 
side, she turned to him and said : Squire, I 
am no ill woodman, so that thou mayst trust 
me that we shall not be brought to shame 
the second time ; and I shall do sagely : so 
nock an arrow to thy bow, and abide me 
here, and stir not hence ; for I shall enter 
this thicket without the hounds, and arouse 
the quarry for thee ; and see that thou be 


brisk and clean-shooting, and then shalt thou 
have a reward of me. 

Therewith she drew up her skirts through 
her girdle again, took her bent bow in her 
hand, and drew an arrow out of the quiver, 
and stepped lightly into the thicket, leaving 
him longing for the sight of her, as he 
hearkened to the tread of her feet on the dry 
leaves, and the rustling of the brake as she 
thrust through it. 

Thus he stood for a few minutes, and then 
he heard a kind of gibbering cry without 
words, yet as of a woman, coming from the 
thicket, and while his heart was yet gathering 
the thought that something had gone amiss, 
he glided swiftly, but with little stir, into 
the brake. 

He had gone but a little way ere he saw 
the Lady standing there in a narrow clearing, 
her face pale as death, her knees cleaving 
together, her body swaying and tottering, 
her hands hanging down, and the bow and 
arrow fallen to the ground ; and ten yards 
before her a great-headed yellow creature 
crouching flat to the earth and slowly 
drawing nigher. 

He stopped short ; one arrow was already 
notched to the string, and another hung 


loose to the lesser fingers of his string-hand. 
He raised his right hand, and drew and 
loosed in a twinkling ; the shaft flew close to 
the Lady's side, and straightway all the wood 
rung with a huge roar, as the yellow lion 
turned about to bite at the shaft which had 
sunk deep into him behind the shoulder, as 
if a bolt out of the heavens had smitten him. 
But straightway had Walter loosed again, 
and then, throwing down his bow, he ran 
forward with his drawn sword gleaming in 
his hand, while the lion weltered and rolled, 
but had no might to move forward. Then 
Walter went up to him warily and thrust 
him through to the heart, and leapt aback, lest 
the beast might yet have life in him to smite ; 
but he left his struggling, his huge voice 
died out, and he lay there moveless before 
the hunter. 

Walter abode a little, facing him, and then 
turned about to the Lady, and she had fallen 
down in a heap whereas she stood, and lay 
there all huddled up and voiceless. So he 
knelt down by her, and lifted up her head, 
and bade her arise, for the foe was slain. And 
after a little she stretched out her limbs, and 
turned about on the grass, and seemed to 
sleep, and the colour came into her face 


again, and it grew soft and a little smiling. 
Thus she lay awhile, and Walter sat by her 
watching her, till at last she opened her eyes 
and sat up, and knew him, and smiling on 
him said : What hath befallen, Squire, that 
I have slept and dreamed ? 

He answered nothing, till her memory 
came back to her, and then she arose, 
trembling and pale, and said : Let us leave 
this wood, for the Enemy is therein. 

And she hastened away before him till 
they came out at the thicket-side whereas the 
hounds had been left, and they were standing 
there uneasy and whining ; so Walter coupled 
them, while the Lady stayed not, but went 
away swiftly homeward, and Walter fol- 

At last she stayed her swift feet, and turned 
round on Walter, and said : Squire, come 

So did he, and she said : I am weary again ; 
let us sit under this quicken-tree, and rest us. 

So they sat down, and she sat looking 
between her knees a while ; and at last she 
said : Why didst thou not bring the lion's 
hide ? 

He said : Lady, I will go back and flay 
the beast, and bring on the hide. 

I 10 

And he arose therewith, but she caught 
him by the skirts and drew him down, and 
said : Nay, thou shalt not go ; abide with 
me. Sit down again. 

He did so, and she said : Thou shalt not 
go from me ; for I am afraid : I am not used 
to looking on the face of death. 

She grew pale as she spoke, and set a hand 
to her breast, and sat so a while without 
speaking. At last she turned to him smiling, 
and said : How was it with the aspecl: of me 
when I stood before the peril of the Enemy ? 
And she laid a hand upon his. 

O gracious one, quoth he, thou wert, as 
ever, full lovely, but I feared for thee. 

She moved not her hand from his, and she 
said: Good and true Squire, I said ere I entered 
the thicket e'en now that I would reward 
thee if thou slewest the quarry. He is dead, 
though thou hast left the skin behind upon 
the carcase. Ask now thy reward, but take 
time to think what it shall be. 

He felt her hand warm upon his, and drew 
in the sweet odour of her mingled with the 
woodland scents under the hot sun of the 
afternoon, and his heart was clouded with 
manlike desire of her. And it was a near 
thing but he had spoken, and craved of her 

1 1 1 

the reward of the freedom of her Maid, and 
that he might depart with her into other 
lands ; but as his mind wavered betwixt this 
and that, the Lady, who had been eyeing 
him keenly, drew her hand away from him ; 
and therewith doubt and fear flowed into his 
mind, and he refrained him of speech. 

Then she laughed merrily and said : The 
good Squire is shamefaced ; he feareth a lady 
more than a lion. Will it be a reward to 
thee if I bid thee to kiss my cheek ? 

Therewith she leaned her face toward him, 
and he kissed her well-favouredly, and then 
sat gazing on her, wondering what should 
betide to him on the morrow. 

Then she arose and said : Come, Squire, 
and let us home ; be not abashed, there shall 
be other rewards hereafter. 

So they went their ways quietly ; and it 
was nigh sunset against they entered the 
house again. Walter looked round for the 
Maid, but beheld her not ; and the Lady 
said to him : I go to my chamber, and now 
is thy service over for this day. 

Then she nodded to him friendly and went 
her ways. 

I 12 


BUT as for Walter, he went out of the 
house again, and fared slowly over the 
woodlawns till he came to another 
close thicket or brake ; he entered from mere 
wantonness, or that he might be the more 
apart and hidden, so as to think over his 
case. There he lay down under the thick 
boughs, but could not so herd his thoughts 
that they would dwell steady in looking into 
what might come to him within the next 
days ; rather visions of those two women and 
the monster did but float before him, and 
fear and desire and the hope of life ran to and 
fro in his mind. 

As he lay thus he heard footsteps drawing 
near, and he looked between the boughs, and 
though the sun had just set, he could see 
close by him a man and a woman going 
slowly, and they hand in hand ; at first he 

113 i 

deemed it would be the King's Son and the 
Lady, but presently he saw that it was the 
King's Son indeed, but that it was the Maid 
whom he was holding by the hand. And 
now he saw of him that his eyes were bright 
with desire, and of her that she was very 
pale. Yet when he heard her begin to 
speak, it was in a steady voice that she 
said : 

King's Son, thou hast threatened me oft 
and unkindly, and now thou threatenest me 
again, and no less unkindly. But whatever 
were thy need herein before, now is there no 
more need ; for my Mistress, of whom thou 
wert weary, is now grown weary of thee, and 
belike will not now reward me for drawing 
thy love to me, as once she would have done ; 
to wit, before the coming of this stranger. 
Therefore I say, since I am but a thrall, poor 
and helpless, betwixt you two mighty ones, I 
have no choice but to do thy will. 

As she spoke she looked all round about 
her, as one distraught by the anguish of fear. 
Walter, amidst of his wrath and grief, had 
well-nigh drawn his sword and rushed out of 
his lair upon the King's Son. But he deemed 
it sure that, so doing, he should undo the 
Maid altogether, and himself also belike, so 


he refrained him, though it were a hard 

The Maid had stayed her feet now close to 
where Walter lay, some five yards from him 
only, and he doubted whether she saw him 
not from where she stood. As to the King's 
Son, he was so intent upon the Maid, and so 
greedy of her beauty, that it was not like 
that he saw anything. 

Now moreover Walter looked, and deemed 
that he beheld something through the grass 
and bracken on the other side of those two, 
an ugly brown and yellow body, which, if it 
were not some beast of the foumart kind, 
must needs be the monstrous dwarf, or one 
of his kin ; and the flesh crept upon Walter's 
bones with the horror of him. But the 
King's Son spoke unto the Maid : Sweetling, 
I shall take the gift thou givest me, neither 
shall I threaten thee any more, howbeit thou 
givest it not very gladly or graciously. She 
smiled on him with her lips alone, for her 
eyes were wandering and haggard. My 
lord, she said, is not this the manner of 
women ? 

Well, he said, I say that I will take thy 
love even so given. Yet let me hear again 
that thou lovest not that vile newcomer, and 


that thou hast not seen him, save this morn- 
ing along with my Lady. Nay now, thou 
shalt swear it. 

What shall I swear by ? she said. 

Quoth he, Thou shalt swear by my body ; 
and therewith he thrust himself close up 
against her ; but she drew her hand from his, 
and laid it on his breast, and said : I swear it 
by thy body. 

He smiled on her licorously, and took her 
by the shoulders, and kissed her face many 
times, and then stood aloof from her, and 
said : Now have I had hansel : but tell me, 
when shall I come to thee ? 

She spoke out clearly : Within three days 
at furthest ; I will do thee to wit of the day 
and the hour to-morrow, or the day after. 

He kissed her once more, and said : Forget 
it not, or the threat holds good. 

And therewith he turned about and went 
his ways toward the house ; and Walter saw 
the yellow-brown thing creeping after him in 
the gathering dusk. 

As for the Maid, she stood for a while with- 
out moving, and looking after the King's Son 
and the creature that followed him. Then 
she turned about to where Walter lay and 
lightly put aside the boughs, and Walter 


leapt up, and they stood face to face. She said 
softly but eagerly : Friend, touch me not yet ! 

He spake not, but looked on her sternly. 
She said : Thou art angry with me ? 

Still he spake not ; but she said : Friend, 
this at least I will pray thee ; not to play 
with life and death ; with happiness and 
misery. Dost thou not remember the oath 
which we swore each to each but a little 
while ago ? And dost thou deem that I have 
changed in these few days? Is thy mind 
concerning thee and me the same as it was ? 
If it be not so, now tell me. For now have I 
the mind to do as if neither thou nor I are 
changed to each other, whoever may have 
kissed mine unwilling lips, or whomsoever 
thy lips may have kissed. But if thou hast 
changed, and wilt no longer give me thy 
love, nor crave mine, then shall this steel 
(and she drew a sharp knife from her girdle) 
be for the fool and the dastard who hath 
made thee wroth with me, my friend, and my 
friend that I deemed I had won. And then 
let come what will come ! But if thou be 
nought changed, and the oath yet holds, 
then, when a little while hath passed, may 
we thrust all evil and guile and grief behind 
us, and long joy shall lie before us, and long 


life, and all honour in death : if only thou 
wilt do as I bid thee, O my dear, and my 
friend, and my first friend ! 

He looked on her, and his breast heaved 
up as all the sweetness of her kind love took 
hold on him, and his face changed, and the 
tears filled his eyes and ran over, and rained 
down before her, and he stretched out his 
hand toward her. 

Then she said exceeding sweetly : Now in- 
deed I see that it is well with me, yea, and 
with thee also. A sore pain it is to me, that 
not even now may I take thine hand, and 
cast mine arms about thee, and kiss the lips 
that love me. But so it has to be. My 
dear, even so I were fain to stand here long 
before thee, even if we spake no more word 
to each other ; but abiding here is perilous ; 
for there is ever an evil spy upon my doings, 
who has now as I deem followed the King's 
Son to the house, but who will return when 
he has tracked him home thither : so we 
must sunder. But belike there is yet time 
for a word or two : first, the rede which I 
had thought on for our deliverance is now 
afoot, though I durst not tell thee thereof, 
nor have time thereto. But this much 
shall I tell thee, that whereas great is 


the craft of my Mistress in wizardry, yet 
I also have some little craft therein, and 
this, which she hath not, to change the as- 
pe6l of folk so utterly that they seem other 
than they verily are ; yea, so that one may 
have the aspecl; of another. Now the next 
thing is this : whatsoever my Mistress may 
bid thee, do her will therein with no more 
nay-saying than thou deemest may please her. 
And the next thing : wheresoever thou 
mayst meet me, speak not to me, make no 
sign to me, even when I seem to be all alone, 
till I stoop down and touch the ring on my 
ankle with my right hand ; but if I do so, 
then stay thee, without fail, till I speak. 
The last thing I will say to thee, dear friend, 
ere we both go our ways, this it is. When 
we are free, and thou knowest all that I have 
done, I pray thee deem me not evil and 
wicked, and be not wroth with me for my 
deed ; whereas thou wottest well that I am 
not in like plight with other women. I have 
heard tell that when the knight goeth to the 
war, and hath overcome his foes by the 
shearing of swords and guileful tricks, and 
hath come back home to his own folk, they 
praise him and bless him, and crown him 
with flowers, and boast of him before God in 


the minster for his deliverance of friend and 
folk and city. Why shouldst thou be worse 
to me than this ? Now is all said, my dear 
and my friend ; farewell, farewell ! 

Therewith she turned and went her ways 
toward the house in all speed, but making 
somewhat of a compass. And when she 
was gone, Walter knelt down and kissed the 
place where her feet had been, and arose 
thereafter, and made his way toward the 
house, he also, but slowly, and staying oft on 
his way. 



ON the morrow morning Walter 
loitered a while about the house till 
the morn was grown old, and then 
about noon he took his bow and arrows and 
went into the woods to the northward, to 
get him some venison. He went somewhat 
far ere he shot him a fawn, and then he sat 
him down to rest under the shade of a great 
chestnut tree, for it was not far past the 
hottest of the day. He looked around 
thence and saw below him a little dale with 
a pleasant stream running through it, and he 
bethought him of bathing therein, so he 
went down and had his pleasure of the water 
and the willowy banks ; for he lay naked 
a while on the grass by the lip of the water, 
for joy of the flickering shade, and the little 


breeze that ran over the down-long ripples 
of the stream. 

Then he did on his raiment, and began to 
come his ways up the bent, but had scarce 
gone three steps ere he saw a woman coming 
towards him from down-stream. His heart 
came into his mouth when he saw her, for 
she stooped and reached down her arm, as 
if she would lay her hand on her ankle, so 
that at first he deemed it had been the Maid, 
but at the second eye-shot he saw that it 
was the Mistress. She stood still and looked 
on him, so that he deemed she would have 
him come to her. So he went to meet her, 
and grew somewhat shamefaced as he drew 
nigher, and wondered at her, for now was 
she clad but in one garment of some dark 
grey silky stuff, embroidered with, as it 
were, a garland of flowers about the middle, 
but which was so thin that, as the wind 
drifted it from side and limb, it hid her no 
more, but for the said garland, than if water 
were running over her : her face was full of 
smiling joy and content as she spake to him 
in a kind, caressing voice, and said : I give 
thee good day, good Squire, and well art 
thou met. And she held out her hand to 
him. He knelt down before her and kissed 


it, and abode still upon his knees, and hanging 
down his head. 

But she laughed outright, and stooped 
down to him, and put her hand to his arms, 
and raised him up, and said to him : What 
is this, my Squire, that thou kneelest to me 
as to an idol ? 

He said faltering : I wot not ; but per- 
chance thou art an idol ; and I fear thee. 

What! she said, more than yesterday, 
whenas thou sawest me afraid ? 

Said he : Yea, for that now I see thee 
unhidden, and meseemeth there hath been 
none such since the old days of the Gentiles. 

She said : Hast thou not yet bethought 
thee of a gift to crave of me, a reward for 
the slaying of mine enemy, and the saving of 
me from death ? 

O my Lady, he said, even so much would 
I have done for any other lady, or, forsooth, 
for any poor man ; for so my manhood 
would have bidden me. Speak not of gifts 
to me then. Moreover (and he reddened 
therewith, and his voice faltered), didst thou 
not give me my sweet reward yesterday ? 
What more durst I ask ? 

She held her peace awhile, and looked on 
him keenly; and he reddened under her 


gaze. Then wrath came into her face, and 
she reddened and knit her brows, and spake 
to him in a voice of anger, and said : Nay, 
what is this ? It is growing in my mind that 
thou deemest the gift of me unworthy! Thou, 
an alien, an outcast ; one endowed with the 
little wisdom of the World without the 
Wood! And here I stand before thee, all 
glorious in my nakedness, and so fulfilled of 
wisdom, that I can make this wilderness to 
any whom I love more full of joy than the 
kingdoms and cities of the world . . . and 
thou! . . . Ah, but it is the Enemy that 
hath done this, and made the guileless guile- 
ful ! Yet will I have the upper hand at 
least, though thou suffer for it, and I suffer 
for thee. 

Walter stood before her with hanging 
head, and he put forth his hands as if praying 
off her anger, and pondered what answer he 
should make ; for now he feared for himself 
and the Maid ; so at last he looked up to 
her, and said boldly : Nay, Lady, I know 
what thy words mean, whereas I remember 
thy first welcome of me. I wot, forsooth, 
that thou wouldst call me base-born, and of 
no account, and unworthy to touch the hem 
of thy raiment ; and that I have been over- 


bold, and guilty towards thee ; and doubtless 
this is sooth, and I have deserved thine 
anger : but I will not ask thee to pardon 
me, for I have done but what I must 
needs. She looked on him calmly now, and 
without any wrath, but rather as if she 
would read what was written in his inmost 
heart. Then her face changed into joyous- 
ness again, and she smote her palms together, 
and cried out : This is but foolish talk ; for 
yesterday did I see thy valiancy, and to-day 
I have seen thy goodliness ; and I say, that 
though thou mightest not be good enough 
for a fool woman of the earthly baronage, 
yet art thou good enough for me, the wise 
and the mighty, and the lovely. And where- 
as thou sayest that I gave thee but disdain 
when first thou earnest to us, grudge not 
against me therefor, because it was done 
but to prove thee ; and now thou art 

Then again he knelt down before her, and 
embraced her knees, and again she raised 
him up, and let her arm hang down over 
his shoulder, and her cheek brush his cheek ; 
and she kissed his mouth and said : Hereby 
is all forgiven, both thine offence and mine ; 
and now cometh joy and merry days. 


Therewith her smiling face grew grave, 
and she stood before him looking stately and 
gracious and kind at once, and she took his 
hand and said : Thou mightest deem my 
chamber in the Golden House of the Wood 
over queenly, since thou art no masterful 
man. So now hast thou chosen well the 
place wherein to meet me to-day, for hard 
by on the other side of the stream is a bower 
of pleasance, which, forsooth, not every one 
who cometh to this land may find ; there 
shall I be to thee as one of the up-country 
damsels of thine own land, and thou shalt 
not be abashed. 

She sidled up to him as she spoke, and 
would he, would he not, her sweet voice 
tickled his very soul with pleasure, and she 
looked aside on him happy and well-content. 

So they crossed the stream by the shallow 
below the pool wherein Walter had bathed, 
and within a little they came upon a tall 
fence of flake-hurdles, and a simple gate 
therein. The Lady opened the same, and 
they entered thereby into a close all planted 
as a most fair garden, with hedges of rose 
and woodbine, and. with linden-trees a- 
blossom, and long ways of green grass betwixt 
borders of lilies and clove-gilliflowers, and 


other sweet garland-flowers. And a branch 
of the stream which they had crossed ere- 
while wandered through that garden ; and in 
the midst was a little house built of post and 
pan, and thatched with yellow straw, as if 
it were new done. 

Then Walter looked this way and that, 
and wondered at first, and tried to think in 
his mind what should come next, and how 
matters would go with him ; but his thought 
would not dwell steady on any other matter 
than the beauty of the Lady amidst the 
beauty of the garden ; and withal she was 
now grown so sweet and kind, and even 
somewhat timid and shy with him, that 
scarce did he know whose hand he held, or 
whose fragrant bosom and sleek side went 
so close to him. 

So they wandered here and there through 
the waning of the day, and when they 
entered at last into the cool dusk house, then 
they loved and played together, as if they 
were a pair of lovers guileless, with no fear 
for the morrow, and no seeds of enmity and 
death sown betwixt them. 



NOW on the morrow, when Walter 
was awake, he found there was no 
one lying beside him, and the day 
was no longer very young ; so he arose, and 
went through the garden from end to end, 
and all about, and there was none there ; and 
albeit that he dreaded to meet the Lady 
there, yet was he sad at heart and fearful of 
what might betide. Howsoever, he found 
the gate whereby they had entered yesterday, 
and he went out into the little dale ; but 
when he had gone a step or two he turned 
about, and could see neither garden nor fence, 
nor any sign of what he had seen thereof but 
lately. He knit his brow and stood still to 
think of it, and his heart grew the heavier 
thereby ; but presently he went his ways and 
crossed the stream, but had scarce come up 
on to the grass on the further side, ere he saw 


a woman coming to meet him, and at first, 
full as he was of the tide of yesterday and the 
wondrous garden, deemed that it would be 
the Lady; but the woman stayed her feet, 
and, stooping, laid a hand on her right ankle, 
and he saw that it was the Maid. He drew 
anigh to her, and saw that she was nought so 
sad of countenance as the last time she had 
met him, but flushed of cheek and bright-eyed. 

As he came up to her she made a step or 
two to meet him, holding out her two hands, 
and then refrained her, and said smiling : 
Ah, friend, belike this shall be the last time 
that I shall say to thee, touch me not, nay, 
not so much as my hand, or it were but the 
hem of my raiment. 

The joy grew up in his heart, and he 
gazed on her fondly, and said : Why, what 
then hath befallen of late ? 

O friend, she began, this hath befallen. 

But as he looked on her, the smile died 
from her face, and she became deadly pale to 
the very lips ; she looked askance to her left 
side, whereas ran the stream ; and Walter 
followed her eyes, and deemed for one instant 
that he saw the misshapen yellow visage of 
the dwarf peering round from a grey rock, 
but the next there was nothing. Then the 

129 K 

Maid, though she were as pale as death, 
went on in a clear, steady, hard voice, wherein 
was no joy or kindness, keeping her face to 
Walter and her back to the stream : This 
hath befallen, friend, that there is no longer 
any need to refrain thy love nor mine ; there- 
fore I say to thee, come to my chamber (and 
it is the red chamber over against thine, 
though thou knewest it not) an hour before 
this next midnight, and then thy sorrow and 
mine shall be at an end : and now I must needs 
depart. Follow me not, but remember ! 

And therewith she turned about and fled 
like the wind down the stream. 

But Walter stood wondering, and knew not 
what to make of it, whether it were for good 
or ill : for he knew now that she had paled 
and been seized with terror because of the 
upheaving of the ugly head ; and yet she had 
seemed to speak out the very thing she had 
to say. Howsoever it were, he spake aloud 
to himself: Whatever comes, I will keep 
tryst with her. 

Then he drew his sword, and turned this 
way and that, looking all about if he might 
see any sign of the Evil Thing ; but nought 
might his eyes behold, save the grass, and 
the stream, and the bushes of the dale. So 


then, still holding his naked sword in his 
hand, he clomb the bent out of the dale ; for 
that was the only way he knew to the 
Golden House ; and when he came to the 
top, and the summer breeze blew in his face, 
and he looked down a fair green slope beset 
with goodly oaks and chestnuts, he was re- 
freshed with the life of the earth, and he felt 
the good sword in his fist, and knew that 
there was might and longing in him, and the 
world seemed open unto him. 

So he smiled, if it were somewhat grimly, 
and sheathed his sword and went on toward 
the house. 


HE entered the cool dusk through 
the porch, and, looking down the 
pillared hall, saw beyond the foun- 
tain a gleam of gold, and when he came past 
the said fountain he looked up to the high- 
seat, and lo ! the Lady sitting there clad in 
her queenly raiment. She called to him, and 
he came ; and she hailed him, and spake 
graciously and calmly, yet as if she knew 
nought of him save as the leal servant of her, 
a high Lady. Squire, she said, we have 
deemed it meet to have the hide of the servant 
of the Enemy, the lion to wit, whom thou 
slewest yesterday, for a carpet to our feet ; 
wherefore go now, take thy wood-knife, and 
flay the beast, and bring me home his skin. 
This shall be all thy service for this day, so 
mayst thou do it at thine own leisure, and not 
weary thyself. May good go with thee. 


He bent the knee before her, and she smiled 
on him graciously, but reached out no hand 
for him to kiss, and heeded him but little. 
Wherefore, in spite of himself, and though he 
knew somewhat of her guile, he could not 
help marvelling that this should be she who 
had lain in his arms night-long but of late. 

Howso that might be, he took his way 
toward the thicket where he had slain the 
lion, and came thither by then it was after- 
noon, at the hottest of the day. So he 
entered therein, and came to the very place 
whereas the Lady had lain, when she fell 
down before the terror of the lion ; and there 
was the mark of her body on the grass where 
she had lain that while, like as it were the 
for mof a hare. But when Walter went on 
to where he had slain that great beast, lo ! 
he was gone, and there was no sign of him; 
but there were Walter's own footprints, and 
the two shafts which he had shot, one 
feathered red, and one blue. He said at 
first : Belike someone hath been here, and 
hath had the carcase away. Then he laughed 
in very despite, and said : How may that be, 
since there are no signs of dragging away of 
so huge a body, and no blood or fur on the 
grass if they had cut him up, and moreover 


no trampling of feet, as if there had been 
many men at the deed. Then was he all 
abashed, and again laughed in scorn of him- 
self, and said : Forsooth I deemed I had done 
manly ; but now forsooth I shot nought, and 
nought there was before the sword of my 
father's son. And what may I deem now, 
but that this is a land of mere lies, and that 
there is nought real and alive therein save 
me. Yea, belike even these trees and the 
green grass will presently depart from me, 
and leave me falling down through the 

Therewith he turned away, and gat him 
to the road that led to the Golden House, 
wondering what next should befall him, and 
going slowly as he pondered his case. So 
came he to that first thicket where they had 
lost their quarry by water ; so he entered the 
same, musing, and bathed him in the pool 
that was therein, after he had wandered 
about it awhile, and found nothing new. 

So again he set him to the homeward road, 
when the day was now waning, and it was 
near sunset that he was come nigh unto the 
house, though it was hidden from him as 
then by a low bent that rose before him ; and 
there he abode and looked about him. 


Now as he looked, over the said bent came 
the figure of a woman, who stayed on the 
brow thereof and looked all about her, and 
then ran swiftly down to meet Walter, who 
saw at once that it was the Maid. 

She made no stay then till she was but 
three paces from him, and then she stooped 
down and made the sign to him, and then 
spake to him breathlessly, and said: Hearken ! 
but speak not till I have done : I bade thee 
to-night's meeting because I saw that there 
was one anigh whom I must needs beguile. 
But by thine oath, and thy love, and all that 
thou art, I adjure thee come not unto me this 
night as I bade thee ! but be hidden in the 
hazel-copse outside the house, as it draws 
toward midnight, and abide me there. Dost 
thou hearken, and wilt thou ? Say yes or no 
in haste, for I may not tarry a moment of 
time. Who knoweth what is behind me ? 

Yes, said Walter hastily ; but friend and 
love . . . 

No more, she said ; hope the best ; and 
turning from him she ran away swiftly, not 
by the way she had come, but sideways, as 
though to reach the house by fetching a 

But Walter went slowly on his way, think- 


ing within himself that now at that present 
moment there was nought for it but to refrain 
him from doing, and to let others do ; yet 
deemed he that it was little manly to be as 
the pawn upon the board, pushed about by 
the will of others. 

Then, as he went, he bethought him of the 
Maiden's face and aspect, as she came running 
to him, and stood before him for that minute ; 
and all eagerness he saw in her, and sore love 
of him, and distress of soul, all blent together. 

So came he to the brow of the bent 
whence he could see lying before him, scarce 
more than a bow-shot away, the Golden 
House, now gilded again and reddened by 
the setting sun. And even therewith came 
a gay image toward him, flashing back the 
level rays from gold and steel and silver ; and 
lo ! there was come the King's Son. They 
met presently, and the King's Son turned to 
go beside him, and said merrily : I give thee 
good even, my Lady's Squire! I owe thee 
something of courtesy, whereas it is by thy 
means that I shall be made happy, both to- 
night, and to-morrow, and many to-morrows ; 
and sooth it is, that but little courtesy have I 
done thee hitherto. 

His face was full of joy, and the eyes of 

him shone with gladness. He was a goodly 
man, but to Walter he seemed an ill one ; 
and he hated him so much, that he found it 
no easy matter to answer him ; but he re- 
frained himself, and said : I can thee thank, 
King's Son ; and good it is that someone is 
happy in this strange land. 

Art thou not happy then, Squire of my 
Lady ? said the other. 

Walter had no mind to show this man his 
heart, nay, nor even a corner thereof; for he 
deemed him an enemy. So he smiled sweetly 
and somewhat foolishly, as a man luckily in 
love, and said : O yea, yea, why should I not 
be so ? How might I be otherwise ? 

Yea then, said the King's Son, why didst 
thou say that thou wert glad someone is 
happy ? Who is unhappy deemest thou ? 
and he looked on him keenly. 

Walter answered slowly : Said I so ? I 
suppose then that I was thinking of thee ; for 
when first I saw thee, yea, and afterwards, 
thou didst seem heavy-hearted and ill-content. 

The face of the King's Son cleared at this 
word, and he said : Yea, so it was ; for look 
you, both ways it was : I was unfree, and I 
had sown the true desire of my heart whereas 
it waxed not. But now I am on the brink 


and verge of freedom, and presently shall my 
desire be blossomed. Nay now, Squire, I 
deem thee a good fellow, though it may be 
somewhat of a fool ; so I will no more speak 
riddles to thee. Thus it is : the Maid hath 
promised me all mine asking, and is mine ; 
and in two or three days, by her helping also, 
I shall see the world again. 

Quoth Walter, smiling askance on him : 
And the Lady? what shall she say to this 
matter ? 

The King's Son reddened, but smiled falsely 
enough, and said : Sir Squire, thou knowest 
enough not to need to ask this. Why should 
I tell thee that she accounteth more of thy 
little ringer than of my whole body ? Now I 
tell thee hereof freely ; first, because this my 
fruition of love, and my freeing from thrall- 
dom, is, in a way, of thy doing. For thou art 
become my supplanter, and hast taken thy 
place with yonder lovely tyrant. Fear not for 
me ! she will let me go. As for thyself, see 
thou to it ! But again I tell thee hereof be- 
cause my heart is light and full of joy, and 
telling thee will pleasure me, and cannot do 
me any harm. For if thou say : How if I carry 
the tale to my Lady? I answer, thou wilt 
not. For I know that thine heart hath been 


somewhat set on the jewel that my hand 
holdeth ; and thou knowest well on whose 
head the Lady's wrath would fall, and that 
would be neither thine nor mine. 

Thou sayest sooth, said Walter ; neither is 
treason my wont. 

So they walked on silently a while, and 
then Walter said : But how if the Maiden 
had nay-said thee; what hadst thou done 

By the heavens! said the King's Son fiercely, 
she should have paid for her nay-say; then 
would I ... But he broke off, and said 
quietly, yet somewhat doggedly : Why talk 
of what might have been ? She gave me her 
yea-say pleasantly and sweetly. 

Now Walter knew that the man lied, so 
he held his peace thereon ; but presently he 
said : When thou art free wilt thou go to 
thine own land again ? 

Yea, said the King's Son ; she will lead me 

And wilt thou make her thy lady and 
queen when thou comest to thy father's land ? 
said Walter. 

The King's Son knit his brow, and said : 
When I am in mine own land I may do with 
her what I will ; but I look for it that I shall 

do no otherwise with her than that she shall 
be well-content. 

Then the talk between them dropped, and 
the King's Son turned offtoward the wood, sing- 
ing and joyous ; but Walter went soberly to- 
ward the house. Forsooth he was not greatly 
cast down, for besides that he knew that the 
King's Son was false, he deemed that under 
this double tryst lay something which was a- 
doing in his own behalf. Yet was he eager 
and troubled, if not down-hearted, and his 
soul was cast about betwixt hope and fear. 



SO came he into the pillared hall, and 
there he found the Lady walking to 
and fro by the high-seat; and when 
he drew nigh she turned on him, and said 
in a voice rather eager than angry : What 
hast thou done, Squire ? Why art thou come 
before me ? 

He was abashed, and bowed before her 
and said : O gracious Lady, thou badest me 
service, and I have been about it. 

She said : Tell me then, tell me, what 
hath betided ? 

Lady, said he, when I entered the thicket 
of thy swooning I found there no carcase of 
the lion, nor any sign of the dragging away 
of him. 

She looked full in his face for a little, and 
then went to her chair, and sat down therein ; 


and in a little while spake to him in a softer 
voice, and said : Did I not tell thee that some 
enemy had done that unto me ? and lo ! now 
thou seest that so it is. 

Then was she silent again, and knit her 
brows and set her teeth ; and thereafter she 
spake harshly and fiercely : But I will over- 
come her, and make her days evil, but keep 
death away from her, that she may die many 
times over ; and know all the sickness of the 
heart, when foes be nigh, and friends afar, 
and there is none to deliver! 

Her eyes flashed, and her face was dark 
with anger; but she turned and caught 
Walter's eyes, and the sternness of his face, 
and she softened at once, and said : But thou ! 
this hath little to do with thee ; and now to 
thee I speak : Now cometh even and night. 
Go thou to thy chamber, and there shalt 
thou find raiment worthy of thee, what thou 
now art, and what thou shalt be ; do on the 
same, and make thyself most goodly, and 
then come thou hither and eat and drink 
with me, and afterwards depart whither thou 
wilt, till the night has worn to its midmost ; 
and then come thou to my chamber, to wit, 
through the ivory door in the gallery above ; 
and then and there shall I tell thee a thing, 


and it shall be for the weal both of thee and 
of me, but for the grief and woe of the 

Therewith she reached her hand to him, 
and he kissed it, and departed and came to 
his chamber, and found raiment therebefore 
rich beyond measure ; and he wondered if 
any new snare lay therein : yet if there were, 
he saw no way whereby he might escape it, 
so he did it on, and became as the most 
glorious of kings, and yet lovelier than any 
king of the world. 

Sithence he went his way into the pillared 
hall, when it was now night, and without 
the moon was up, and the trees of the wood 
as still as images. But within the hall shone 
bright with many candles, and the fountain 
glittered in the light of them, as it ran 
tinkling sweetly into the little stream; and 
the silvern bridges gleamed, and the pillars 
shone all round about. 

And there on the dais was a table dight 
most royally, and the Lady sitting thereat, 
clad in her most glorious array, and behind 
her -the Maid standing humbly, yet clad in 
precious web of shimmering gold, but with 
feet unshod, and the iron ring upon her 


So Walter came his ways to the high-seat, 
and the Lady rose and greeted him, and 
took him by the hands, and kissed him on 
either cheek, and sat him down beside her. 
So they fell to their meat, and the Maid 
served them ; but the Lady took no more 
heed of her than if she were one of the 
pillars of the hall ; but Walter she caressed 
oft with sweet words, and the touch of her 
hand, making him drink out of her cup and 
eat out of her dish. As to him, he was 
bashful by seeming, but verily fearful ; he 
took the Lady's caresses with what grace he 
might, and durst not so much as glance at 
her Maid. Long indeed seemed that banquet 
to him, and longer yet endured the weariness 
of his abiding there, kind to his foe and 
unkind to his friend ; for after the banquet 
they still sat a while, and the Lady talked 
much to Walter about many things of the 
ways of the world, and he answered what 
he might, distraught as he was with the 
thought of those two trysts which he had to 
deal with. 

At last spake the Lady and said : Now 
must I leave thee for a little, and thou 
wottest where and how we shall meet next ; 
and meanwhile disport thee as thou wilt, so 


that thou weary not thyself, for I love to see 
thee joyous. 

Then she arose stately and grand ; but she 
kissed Walter on the mouth ere she turned 
to go out of the hall. The Maid followed 
her; but or ever she was quite gone, she 
stooped and made that sign, and looked over 
her shoulder at Walter, as if in entreaty to 
him, and there was fear and anguish in her 
face ; but he nodded his head to her in yea- 
say of the tryst in the hazel-copse, and in a 
trice she was gone. 

Walter went down the hall, and forth into 
the early night ; but in the jaws of the porch 
he came up against the King's Son, who, 
gazing at his attire glittering with all its 
gems in the moonlight, laughed out, and 
said : Now may it be seen how thou art 
risen in degree above me, whereas I am but 
a king's son, and that a king of a far country ; 
whereas thou art a king of kings, or shalt be 
this night, yea, and of this very country 
wherein we both are. 

Now Walter saw the mock which lay 
under his words ; but he kept back his wrath, 
and answered : Fair sir, art thou as well con- 
tented with thy lot as when the sun went 
down ? Hast thou no doubt or fear ? Will 

145 L 

the Maid verily keep tryst with thee, or hath 
she given thee yea-say but to escape thee this 
time ? Or, again, may she not turn to the 
Lady and appeal to her against thee ? 

Now when he had spoken these words, 
he repented thereof, and feared for himself 
and the Maid, lest he had stirred some mis- 
giving in that young man's foolish heart. But 
the King's Son did but laugh, and answered 
nought but to Walter's last words, and said : 
Yea, yea! this word of thine showeth how 
little thou wottest of that which lieth betwixt 
my darling and thine. Doth the lamb appeal 
from the shepherd to the wolf? Even so 
shall the Maid appeal from me to thy Lady. 
What ! ask thy Lady at thy leisure what her 
wont hath been with her thrall; she shall 
think it a fair tale to tell thee thereof. But 
thereof is my Maid all whole now by reason 
of her wisdom in leechcraft, or somewhat 
more. And now I tell thee again, that the 
beforesaid Maid must needs do my will ; for 
if I be the deep sea, and I deem not so ill of 
myself, that other one is the devil ; as belike 
thou shalt find out for thyself later on. Yea, 
all is well with me, and more than well. 

And therewith he swung merrily into the 
litten hall. But Walter went out into the 


moonlit night, and wandered about for an 
hour or more, and stole warily into the hall 
and thence into his own chamber. There 
he did off that royal array, and did his own 
raiment upon him ; he girt him with sword 
and knife, took his bow and quiver, and stole 
down and out again, even as he had come in. 
Then he fetched a compass, and came down 
into that hazel coppice from the north, and 
lay all hidden there while the night wore, 
till he deemed it would lack but little of 



THERE he abode amidst the hazels, 
hearkening every littlest sound ; and 
the sounds were nought but the 
night voices of the wood, till suddenly there 
burst forth from the house a great wailing 
cry. Walter's heart came up into his mouth, 
but he had no time to do aught, for following 
hard on the cry came the sound of light 
feet close to him, the boughs were thrust 
aside, and there was come the Maid, and 
she but in her white coat, and barefoot. 
And then first he felt the sweetness of her 
flesh on his, for she caught him by the hand 
and said breathlessly : Now, now ! there 
may yet be time, or even too much, it may 
be. For the saving of breath ask me no 
questions, but come! 


He dallied not, but went as she led, and 
they were light-foot, both of them. 

They went the same way, due south to 
wit, whereby he had gone a-hunting with 
the Lady ; and whiles they ran and whiles 
they walked ; but so fast they went, that by 
grey of the dawn they were come as far 
as that coppice or thicket of the Lion ; and 
still they hastened onward, and but little had 
the Maid spoken, save here and there a 
word to hearten up Walter, and here and 
there a shy word of endearment. At last 
the dawn grew into early day, and as they 
came over the brow of a bent, they looked 
down over a plain land whereas the trees 
grew scatter-meal, and beyond the plain rose 
up the land into long green hills, and over 
those again were blue mountains great and 
far away. 

Then spake the Maid : Over yonder lie 
the outlying mountains of the Bears, and 
through them we needs must pass, to our 
great peril. 

Nay, friend, she said, as he handled his 
sword-hilt, it must be patience and wisdom 
to bring us through, and not the fallow blade 
of one man, though he be a good one. But 
look! below there runs a stream through 


the first of the plain, and I see nought for it 
but we must now rest our bodies. Moreover 
I have a tale to tell thee which is burning 
my heart ; for maybe there will be a pardon 
to ask of thee moreover ; wherefore I fear 

Quoth Walter : How may that be ? 

She answered him not, but took his hand 
and led him down the bent. But he said : 
Thou sayest, rest ; but are we now out of all 
peril of the chase ? 

She said : I cannot tell till I know what 
hath befallen her. If she be not to hand 
to set on her trackers, they will scarce happen 
on us now ; if it be not for that one. 

And she shuddered, and he felt her hand 
change as he held it. 

Then she said : But peril or no peril, 
needs must we rest ; for I tell thee again, 
what I have to say to thee burneth my 
bosom for fear of thee, so that I can go no 
further until I have told thee. 

Then he said : I wot not of this Queen 
and her mightiness and her servants. I will 
ask thereof later. But besides the others, is 
there not the King's Son, he who loves thee 
so unworthily ? 

She paled somewhat, and said : As for 

him, there had been nought for thee to fear 
in him, save his treason : but now shall he 
neither love nor hate any more ; he died 
last midnight. 

Yea, and how ? said Walter. 

Nay, she said, let me tell my tale all 
together once for all, lest thou blame me 
overmuch. But first we will wash us and 
comfort us as best we may, and then amidst 
our resting shall the word be said. 

By then were they come down to the 
stream-side, which ran fair in pools and 
stickles amidst rocks and sandy banks. She 
said : There behind the great grey rock is 
my bath, friend ; and here is thine ; and 
lo ! the uprising of the sun ! 

So she went her ways to the said rock, and 
he bathed him, and washed the night off 
him, and by then he was clad again she 
came back fresh and sweet from the water, 
and with her lap full of cherries from a 
wilding which overhung her bath. So they 
sat down together on the green grass above 
the sand, and ate the breakfast of the wilder- 
ness : and Walter was full of content as 
he watched her, and beheld her sweetness 
and her loveliness ; yet were they, either of 
them, somewhat shy and shamefaced each 

with the other; so that he did but kiss 
her hands once and again, and though she 
shrank not from him, yet had she no boldness 
to cast herself into his arms. 



N r OW she began to say : My friend, 
now shall I tell thee what I have 
done for thee and me ; and if thou 
have a mind to blame me, and punish me, 
yet remember first, that what I have done 
has been for thee and our hope of happy 
life. Well, I shall tell thee . . . 

But therewithal her speech failed her ; 
and, springing up, she faced the bent and 
pointed with her finger, and she all deadly 
pale, and shaking so that she might scarce 
stand, and might speak no word, though a 
feeble gibbering came from her mouth. 

Walter leapt up and put his arm about 
her, and looked whitherward she pointed, 
and at first saw nought ; and then nought 
but a brown and yellow rock rolling down 
the bent : and then at last he saw that it was 


the Evil Thing which had met him when 
first he came into that land ; and now it 
stood upright, and he could see that it was 
clad in a coat of yellow samite. 

Then Walter stooped down and gat his 
bow into his hand, and stood before the 
Maid, while he nocked an arrow. But the 
monster made ready his tackle while Walter 
was stooping down, and or ever he could 
loose, his bow-string twanged, and an arrow 
flew forth and grazed the Maid's arm above 
the elbow, so that the blood ran, and the 
Dwarf gave forth a harsh and horrible cry. 
Then flew Walter's shaft, and true was it 
aimed, so that it smote the monster full 
on the breast, but fell down from him as if he 
were made of stone. Then the creature set 
up his horrible cry again, and loosed withal, 
and Walter deemed that he had smitten the 
Maid, for she fell down in a heap behind 
him. Then waxed Walter wood-wroth, 
and cast down his bow and drew his sword, 
and strode forward towards the bent against 
the Dwarf. But he roared out again, and 
there were words in his roar, and he said : 
Fool ! thou shalt go free if thou wilt give up 
the Enemy. 

And who, said Walter, is the Enemy ? 


Yelled the Dwarf: She, the pink and 
white thing lying there; she is not dead 
yet ; she is but dying for fear of me. Yea, 
she hath reason ! I could have set the shaft 
in her heart as easily as scratching her arm ; 
but I need her body alive, that I may wreak 
me on her. 

What wilt thou do with her ? said Walter ; 
for now he had heard that the Maid was 
not slain he had waxed wary again, and 
stood watching his chance. 

The Dwarf yelled so at his last word, that 
no word came from the noise a while, and 
then he said : What will I with her ? Let 
me at her, and stand by and look on, and 
then shalt thou have a strange tale to carry 
off with thee. For I will let thee go this 

Said Walter : But what need to wreak 
thee ? What hath she done to thee ? 

What need ! what need ! roared the 
Dwarf; have I not told thee that she is the 
Enemy ? And thou askest of what she hath 
done ! of what ! Fool, she is the murderer ! 
she hath slain the Lady that was our Lady, 
and that made us ; she whom all we wor- 
shipped and adored. O impudent fool ! 

Therewith he nocked and loosed another 


arrow, which would have smitten Walter in 
the face, but that he lowered his head in the 
very nick of time ; then with a great shout 
he rushed up the bent, and was on the Dwarf 
before he could get his sword out, and leap- 
ing aloft dealt the creature a stroke amidmost 
of the crown ; and so mightily he smote, that 
he drave the heavy sword right through to 
the teeth, so that he fell dead straightway. 

Walter stood over him a minute, and when 
he saw that he moved not, he went slowly 
down to the stream, whereby the Maid yet 
lay cowering down and quivering all over, 
and covering her face with her hands. Then 
he took her by the wrist and said : Up, 
Maiden, up ! and tell me this tale of the 
slaying ! 

But she shrunk away from him, and looked 
at him with wild eyes, and said : What hast 
thou done with him ? Is he gone ? 

He is dead, said Walter ; I have slain him ; 
there lies he with cloven skull on the bent- 
side : unless, forsooth, he vanish away like 
the lion I slew ! or else, perchance, he will 
come to life again ! And art thou a lie like 
to the rest of them ? let me hear of this slay- 

She rose up, and stood before him tremb- 

ling, and said : O, thou art angry with me, 
and thine anger I cannot bear. Ah, what 
have I done? Thou hast slain one, and I, 
maybe, the other ; and never had we escaped 
till both these twain were dead. Ah! thou 
dost not know ! thou dost not know ! O me ! 
what shall I do to appease thy wrath ! 

He looked on her, and his heart rose to 
his mouth at the thought of sundering from 
her. Still he looked on her, and her piteous 
friendly face melted all his heart ; he threw 
down his sword, and took her by the 
shoulders, and kissed her face over and over, 
and strained her to him, so that he felt the 
sweetness of her bosom. Then he lifted her 
up like a child, and set her down on the 
green grass, and went down to the water, 
and filled his hat therefrom, and came back 
to her ; then he gave her to drink, and bathed 
her face and her hands, so that the colour 
came aback to the cheeks and lips of her : 
and she smiled on him and kissed his hands, 
and said : O now thou art kind to me. 

Yea, said he, and true it is that if thou hast 
slain, I have done no less, and if thou hast 
lied, even so have I ; and if thou hast played 
the wanton, as I deem not that thou hast, I 
full surely have so done. So now thou shalt 


pardon me, and when thy spirit has come 
back to thee, thou shalt tell me thy tale in all 
friendship, and in all loving-kindness will I 
hearken the same. 

Therewith he knelt before her and kissed 
her feet. But she said : Yea, yea ; what thou 
wiliest, that will I do. But first tell me one 
thing. Hast thou buried this horror and 
hidden him in the earth ? 

He deemed that fear had bewildered her, 
and that she scarcely yet knew how things 
had gone. But he said : Fair sweet friend, I 
have not done it as yet ; but now will I go 
and do it, if it seem good to thee. 

Yea, she said, but first must thou smite off 
his head, and lay it by his buttocks when he 
is in the earth ; or evil things will happen 
else. This of the burying is no idle matter, 
I bid thee believe. 

I doubt it not, said he ; surely such malice 
as was in this one will be hard to slay. And 
he picked up his sword, and turned to go to 
the field of deed. 

She said : I must needs go with thee ; 
terror hath so filled my soul, that I durst not 
abide here without thee. 

So they went both together to where the 
creature lay. The Maid durst not look on 

the dead monster, but Walter noted that he 
was girt with a big ungainly sax ; so he drew 
it from the sheath, and there smote off the 
hideous head of the fiend with his own 
weapon. Then they twain together laboured 
the earth, she with Walter's sword, he with 
the ugly sax, till they had made a grave deep 
and wide enough; and therein they thrust 
the creature, and covered him up, weapons 
and all together. 



THEREAFTER Walter led the Maid 
down again, and said to her : Now, 
sweetling, shall the story be told. 

Nay, friend, she said, not here. This place 
hath been polluted by my craven fear, and 
the horror of the vile wretch, of whom no 
words may tell his vileness. Let us hence 
and onward. Thou seest I have once more 
come to life again. 

But, said he, thou hast been hurt by the 
Dwarf's arrow. 

She laughed, and said : Had I never had 
greater hurt from them than that, little had 
been the tale thereof: yet whereas thou 
lookest dolorous about it, we will speedily 
heal it. 

Therewith she sought about, and found 
nigh the stream-side certain herbs; and she 
spake words over them, and bade Walter lay 


them on the wound, which, forsooth, was of 
the least, and he did so, and bound a strip of 
his shirt about her arm ; and then would she 
set forth. But he said : Thou art all unshod ; 
and but if that be seen to, our journey shall 
be stayed by thy foot-soreness : I may make 
a shift to fashion thee brogues. 

She said : I may well go barefoot. And 
in any case, I entreat thee that we tarry here 
no longer, but go away hence, if it be but for 
a mile. 

And she looked piteously on him, so that 
he might not gainsay her. 

So then they crossed the stream, and set 
forward, when amidst all these haps the day 
was worn to mid-morning. But after they 
had gone a mile, they sat them down on a 
knoll under the shadow of a big thorn-tree, 
within sight of the mountains. Then said 
Walter: Now will I cut thee the brogues 
from the skirt of my buff-coat, which shall 
be well meet for such work ; and meanwhile 
shalt thou tell me thy tale. 

Thou art kind, she said; but be kinder 
yet, and abide my tale till we have done our 
day's work. For we were best to make no 
long delay here ; because, though thou hast 
slain the King-dwarf, yet there be others of 

161 M 

his kindred, who swarm in some parts of the 
wood as the rabbits in a warren. Now true 
it is that they have but little understanding, 
less, it may be, than the very brute beasts ; 
and that, as I said afore, unless they be set on 
our slot like to hounds, they shall have no 
inkling of where to seek us, yet might they 
happen upon us by mere misadventure. And 
moreover, friend, quoth she, blushing, I would 
beg of thee some little respite ; for though I 
scarce fear thy wrath any more, since thou 
hast been so kind to me, yet is there shame 
in that which I have to tell thee. Where- 
fore, since the fairest of the day is before us, 
let us use it all we may, and, when thou hast 
done me my new foot-gear, get us gone for- 
ward again. 

He kissed her kindly and yea-said her 
asking : he had already fallen to work on the 
leather, and in a while had fashioned her the 
brogues ; so she tied them to her feet, and 
arose with a smile and said : Now am I hale 
and strong again, what with the rest, and 
what with thy loving-kindness, and thou 
shalt see how nimble I shall be to leave this 
land, for as fair as it is. Since forsooth a 
land of lies it is, and of grief to the children 
of Adam. 


So they went their ways thence, and fared 
nimbly indeed, and made no stay till some 
three hours after noon, when they rested by 
a thicket-side, where the strawberries grew 
plenty ; they ate thereof what they would : 
and from a great oak hard by Walter shot 
him first one culver, and then another, and 
hung them to his girdle to be for their even- 
ing's meat ; sithence they went forward 
again, and nought befell them to tell of, till 
they were come, whenas it lacked scarce an 
hour of sunset, to the banks of another river, 
not right great, but bigger than the last one. 
There the Maid cast herself down and said : 
Friend, no further will thy friend go this even ; 
nay, to say sooth, she cannot. So now we 
will eat of thy venison, and then shall my 
tale be, since I may no longer delay it ; and 
thereafter shall our slumber be sweet and safe 
as I deem. 

She spake merrily now, and as one who 
feared nothing, and Walter was much 
heartened by her words and her voice, and 
he fell to and made a fire, and a woodland 
oven in the earth, and sithence dighted his 
fowl, and baked them after the manner of 
woodmen. And they ate, both of them, in 
all love, and in good-liking of life, and were 


much strengthened by their supper. And 
when they were done, Walter eked his fire, 
both against the chill of the midnight and 
dawning, and for a guard against wild beasts, 
and by that time night was come, and the 
moon arisen. Then the Maiden drew up 
to the fire, and turned to Walter and spake. 



NOW, friend, by the clear of the 
moon and this firelight will I tell 
what I may and can of my tale. 
Thus it is : If I be wholly of the race of 
Adam I wot not ; nor can I tell thee how 
many years old I may be. For there are, as 
it were, shards or gaps in my life, wherein 
are but a few things dimly remembered, and 
doubtless many things forgotten. I re- 
member well when I was a little child, and 
right happy, and there were people about me 
whom I loved, and who loved me. It was 
not in this land ; but all things were lovely 
there ; the year's beginning, the happy mid- 
year, the year's waning, the year's ending, 
and then again its beginning. That passed 
away, and then for a while is more than dim- 
ness, for nought I remember save that I was. 
Thereafter I remember again, and am a young 

maiden, and I know some things, and long to 
know more. I am nowise happy ; I am 
amongst people who bid me go, and I go ; 
and do this, and I do it : none loveth me, 
none tormenteth me ; but I wear my heart 
in longing for I scarce know what. Neither 
then am I in this land, but in a land that I 
love not, and a house that is big and stately, 
but nought lovely. Then is a dim time 
again, and sithence a time not right clear; 
an evil time, wherein I am older, well-nigh 
grown to womanhood. There are a many 
folk about me, and they foul, and greedy, and 
hard ; and my spirit is fierce, but my body 
feeble ; and I am set to tasks that I would 
not do, by them that are unwiser than I ; and 
smitten I am by them that are less valiant 
than I ; and I know lack, and stripes, and 
divers misery. But all that is now become 
but a dim piclure to me, save that amongst all 
these unfriends is a friend to me ; an old 
woman, who telleth me sweet tales of other 
life, wherein all is high and goodly, or at the 
least valiant and doughty, and she setteth 
hope in my heart and learneth me, and 
maketh me to know much . . . O much . . . 
so that at last I am grown wise, and wise to 
be mighty if I durst. Yet am I nought in 

1 66 

this land all this while, but, as meseemeth, 
in a great and a foul city. 

And then, as it were, I fall asleep ; and 
in my sleep is nought, save here and there 
a wild dream, somedeal lovely, somedeal 
hideous : but of this dream is my Mistress a 
part, and the monster, withal, whose head 
thou didst cleave to-day. But when I am 
awaken from it, then am I verily in this 
land, and myself, as thou seest me to-day. 
And the first part of my life here is this, that 
I am in the pillared hall yonder, half-clad 
and with bound hands ; and the Dwarf 
leadeth me to the Lady, and I hear his 
horrible croak as he sayeth : Lady, will this 
one do ? and then the sweet voice of the 
Lady saying : This one will do ; thou slim 
have thy reward : now, set thou the token 
upon her. Then I remember the Dwarf 
dragging me away, and my heart sinking for 
fear of him ; but for that time he did me no 
more harm than the rivetting upon my leg 
this iron ring which here thou seest. 

So from that time forward I have lived in 
this land, and been the thrall of the Lady ; 
and I remember my life here day by day, 
and no part of it has fallen into the dimness 
of dreams. Thereof will I tell thee but 


little : but this I will tell thee, that in spite 
of my past dreams, or it may be because 
of them, I had not lost the wisdom which 
the old woman had erst learned me, and for 
more wisdom I longed. Maybe this longing 
shall now make both thee and me happy, 
but for the passing time it brought me grief. 
For at first my Mistress was indeed way- 
ward with me, but as any great lady might 
be with her bought thrall, whiles caressing 
me, and whiles chastising me, as her mood 
went ; but she seemed not to be cruel of 
malice, or with any set purpose. But so 
it was (rather little by little than by any 
great sudden uncovering of my intent), that 
she came to know that I also had some of the 
wisdom whereby she lived her queenly life. 
That was about two years after I was first 
her thrall, and three weary years have gone 
by since she began to see in me the enemy 
of her days. Now why or wherefore I know 
not, but it seemeth that it would not avail 
her to slay me outright, or suffer me to die ; 
but nought withheld her from piling up 
griefs and miseries on my head. At last she 
set her servant, the Dwarf, upon me, even 
he whose head thou clavest to-day. Many 
things I bore from him whereof it were 

1 68 

unseemly for my tongue to tell before thee ; 
but the time came when he exceeded, and 
I could bear no more ; and then I showed 
him this sharp knife (wherewith I would 
have thrust me through to the heart if thou 
hadst not pardoned me e'en now), and I told 
him that if he forbore me not, I would slay, 
not him, but myself; and this he might not 
away with because of the commandment of 
the Lady, who had given him the word 
that in any case I must be kept living. And 
her hand, withal, fear held somewhat here- 
after. Yet was there need to me of all my 
wisdom ; for with all this her hatred grew, 
and whiles raged within her so furiously 
that it overmastered her fear, and at such : 
times she would have put me to deatn if 
I had not escaped her by some turn of my 

Now further, I shall tell thee that some- 
what more than a year ago hither to this 
land came the King's Son, the second goodly 
man, as thou art the third, whom her sor- 
ceries have drawn hither since I have dwelt 
here. Forsooth, when he first came, he 
seemed to us, to me, and yet more to my 
Lady, to be as beautiful as an angel, and 
sorely she loved him ; and he her, after his 


fashion : but he was light-minded, and cold- 
hearted, and in a while he must needs turn 
his eyes upon me, and offer me his love, 
which was but foul and unkind as it turned 
out; for when I nay-said him, as maybe 
I had not done save for fear of my Mistress, 
he had no pity upon me, but spared not 
to lead me into the trap of her wrath, and 
leave me without help, or a good word. 
But, O friend, in spite of all grief and 
anguish, I learned still, and waxed wise, and 
wiser, abiding the day of my deliverance, 
which has come, and thou art come. 

Therewith she took Walter's hands and 
kissed them ; but he kissed her face, and 
her tears wet her lips. Then she went on : 
But sithence, months ago, the Lady began 
to weary of this dastard, despite of his beauty ; 
and then it was thy turn to be swept into 
her net ; I partly guess how. For on a day 
in broad daylight, as I was serving my 
Mistress in the hall, and the Evil Thing, 
whose head is now cloven, was lying across 
the threshold of the door, as it were a dream 
fell upon me, though I strove to cast it off 
for fear of chastisement ; for the pillared 
hall wavered, and vanished from my sight, 
and my feet were treading a rough stone 


pavement instead of the marble wonder of 
the hall, and there was the scent of the 
salt sea and of the tackle of ships, and behind 
me were tall houses, and before me the 
ships indeed, with their ropes beating and 
their sails flapping and their masts wavering ; 
and in mine ears was the hale and how of 
mariners ; things that I had seen and heard 
in the dimness of my life gone by. 

And there was I, and the Dwarf before 
me, and the Lady after me, going over the 
gangway aboard of a tall ship, and she 
gathered way and was gotten out of the 
haven, and straightway I saw the mariners 
cast abroad their ancient. 

Quoth Walter : What then ! Sawest thou 
the blazon thereon, of a wolf-like beast 
ramping up against a maiden ? And that 
might well have been thou. 

She said : Yea, so it was ; but refrain thee, 
that I may tell on my tale ! The ship and 
the sea vanished away, but I was not back in 
the hall of the Golden House; and again 
were we three in the street of the self-same 
town which we had but just left ; but some- 
what dim was my vision thereof, and I saw 
little save the door of a goodly house before 
me, and speedily it died out, and we were 


again in the pillared hall, wherein my thrall- 
dom was made manifest. 

Maiden, said Walter, one question I would 
ask thee; to wit, didst thou see me on the 
quay by the ships ? 

Nay, she said, there were many folk about, 
but they were all as images of the aliens 
to me. Now hearken further : three months 
thereafter came the dream upon me again, 
when we were all three together in the 
Pillared Hall ; and again was the vision 
somewhat dim. Once more we were in the 
street of a busy town, but all unlike to that other 
one, and there were men standing together on 
our right hands by the door of a house. 

Yea, yea, quoth Walter; and, forsooth, 
one of them was who but I. 

Refrain thee, beloved ! she said ; for my 
tale draweth to its ending, and I would have 
thee hearken needfully : for maybe thou 
shalt once again deem my deed past pardon. 
Some twenty days after this last dream, 
I had some leisure from my Mistress's service, 
so I went to disport me by the Well of the 
Oak-tree (or forsooth she might have set 
in my mind the thought of going there, that 
I might meet thee and give her some occasion 
against me) ; and I sat thereby, nowise 


loving the earth, but sick at heart, because 
of late the King's Son had been more than 
ever instant with me to yield him my body, 
threatening me else with casting me into all 
that the worst could do to me of torments 
and shames day by day. I say my heart 
failed me, and I was well-nigh brought 
to the point of yea-saying his desires, that 
I might take the chance of something be- 
falling me that were less bad than the worst. 
But here must I tell thee a thing, and 
pray thee to take it to heart. This, more 
than aught else, had given me strength to 
nay-say that dastard, that my wisdom both 
hath been, and now is, the wisdom of a wise 
maid, and not of a woman, and all the might 
thereof shall I lose with my maidenhead. 
Evil wilt thou think of me then, for all I was 
tried so sore, that I was at point to cast it 
all away, so wretchedly as I shrank from 
the horror of the Lady's wrath. 

But there as I sat pondering these things, 
I saw a man coming, and thought no other- 
wise thereof but that it was the King's Son, 
till I saw the stranger drawing near, and his 
golden hair, and his grey eyes; and then I 
heard his voice, and his kindness pierced my 
heart, and I knew that my friend had come 

173 ' 

to see me ; and O, friend, these tears are for 
the sweetness of that past hour ! 

Said Walter : I came to see my friend, I 
also. Now have I noted what thou badest 
me ; and I will forbear all as thou com- 
mandest me, till we be safe out of the desert 
and far away from all evil things ; but wilt 
thou ban me from all caresses ? 

She laughed amidst of her tears, and said : 
O, nay, poor lad, if thou wilt be but wise. 

Then she leaned toward him, and took 
his face betwixt her hands and kissed him 
oft, and the tears started in his eyes for love 
and pity of her. 

Then she said : Alas, friend ! even yet 
mayst thou doom me guilty, and all thy 
love may turn away from me, when I have 
told thee all that I have done for the sake of 
thee and me. O, if then there might be 
some chastisement for the guilty woman, and 
not mere sundering ! 

Fear nothing, sweetling, said he ; for indeed 
I deem that already I know partly what thou 
hast done. 

She sighed, and said : I will tell thee next, 
that I banned thy kissing and caressing of 
me till to-day because I knew that my Mis- 
tress would surely know if a man, if thou, 


hadst so much as touched a finger of mine 
in love. It was to try me herein that on 
the morning of the hunting she kissed and 
embraced me, till I almost died thereof, and 
showed thee my shoulder and my limbs ; and 
to try thee withal, if thine eye should glister 
or thy cheek flush thereat; for indeed she 
was raging in jealousy of thee. Next, my 
friend, even whiles we were talking together 
at the Well of the Rock, I was pondering 
on what we should do to escape from this 
land of lies. Maybe thou wilt say : Why 
didst thou not take my hand and flee with 
me as we fled to-day ? Friend, it is most 
true, that were she not dead we had not 
escaped thus far. For her trackers would 
have followed us, set on by her, and brought 
us back to an evil fate. Therefore I tell 
thee that from the first I did plot the death 
of those two, the Dwarf and the Mistress. 
For no otherwise mightest thou live, or I 
escape from death in life. But as to the 
dastard who threatened me with a thrall's 
pains, I heeded him nought to live or die, 
for well I knew that thy valiant sword, yea, 
or thy bare hands, would speedily tame him. 
Now first I knew that I must make a show 
of yielding to the King's Son ; and somewhat 

how I did therein, thou knowest. But no 
night and no time did I give him to bed me, 
till after I had met thee as thou wentest to 
the Golden House, before the adventure of 
fetching the lion's skin ; and up to that time 
I had scarce known what to do, save ever to 
bid thee, with sore grief and pain, to yield 
thee to the wicked woman's desire. But as 
we spake together there by the stream, and 
I saw that the Evil Thing (whose head thou 
clavest e'en now) was spying on us, then 
amidst the sickness of terror which ever 
came over me whensoever I thought of him, 
and much more when I saw him (ah ! he is 
dead now!), it came flashing into my mind 
how I might destroy my enemy. Therefore 
I made the Dwarf my messenger to her, by 
bidding thee to my bed in such wise that he 
might hear it. And wot thou well, that he 
speedily carried her the tidings. Meanwhile 
I hastened to lie to the King's Son, and all 
privily bade him come to me and not thee. 
And thereafter, by dint of waiting and watch- 
ing, and taking the only chance that there 
was, I met thee as thou earnest back from 
fetching the skin of the lion that never was, 
and gave thee that warning, or else had we 
been undone indeed. 


Said Walter : Was the lion of her making 
or of thine then ? 

She said : Of hers : why should I deal 
with such a matter? 

Yea, said Walter, but she verily swooned, 
and she was verily wroth with the Enemy. 

The Maid smiled, and said : If her lie was 
not like very sooth, then had she not been 
the crafts-master that I knew her : one may 
lie otherwise than with the tongue alone : 
yet indeed her wrath against the Enemy was 
nought feigned ; for the Enemy was even I, 
and in these latter days never did her wrath 
leave me. But to go on with my tale. 

Now doubt thou not, that, when thou 
earnest into the hall yester eve, the Mistress 
knew of thy counterfeit tryst with me, and 
meant nought but death for thee ; yet first 
would she have thee in her arms again, 
therefore did she make much of thee at 
table (and that was partly for my torment 
also), and therefore did she make that tryst 
with thee, and deemed doubtless that thou 
wouldst not dare to forgo it, even if thou 
shouldst go to me thereafter. 

Now I had trained that dastard to me as 
I have told thee, but I gave him a sleepy 
draught, so that when I came to the bed he 

177 N 

might not move toward me nor open his 
eyes : but I lay down beside him, so that 
the Lady might know that my body had 
been there ; for well had she wotted if it 
had not. Then as there I lay I cast over 
him thy shape, so that none might have 
known, but that thou wert lying by my side, 
and there, trembling, I abode what should 
befall. Thus I passed through the hour 
whenas thou shouldest have been at her 
chamber, and the time of my tryst with thee 
was come as the Mistress would be deeming ; 
so that I looked for her speedily, and my heart 
well-nigh failed me for fear of her cruelty. 

Presently then I heard a stirring in her 
chamber, and I slipped from out the bed, 
and hid me behind the hangings, and was 
like to die for fear of her ; and lo, presently 
she came stealing in softly, holding a lamp 
in one hand and a knife in the other. And 
I tell thee of a sooth that I also had a sharp 
knife in my hand to defend my life if need 
were. She held the lamp up above her 
head before she drew near to the bed-side, 
and I heard her mutter : She is not there 
then! but she shall be taken. Then she 
went up to the bed and stooped over it, and 
laid her hand on the place where I had lain ; 

and therewith her eyes turned to that false 
image of thee lying there, and she fell 
a-trembling and shaking, and the lamp fell 
to the ground and was quenched (but there 
was bright moonlight in the room, and still 
I could see what betid). But she uttered a 
noise like the low roar of a wild beast, and I 
saw her arm and hand rise up, and the 
flashing of the steel beneath the hand, and 
then down came the hand and the steel, and 
I went nigh to swooning lest perchance I 
had wrought over well, and thine image 
were thy very self. The dastard died without 
a groan : why should I lament him ? I cannot. 
But the Lady drew him toward her, and 
snatched the clothes from off his shoulders 
and breast, and fell a-gibbering sounds mostly 
without meaning, but broken here and there 
with words. Then I heard her say : I shall 
forget ; I shall forget ; and the new days 
shall come. Then was there silence of her 
a little, and thereafter she cried out in a 
terrible voice : O no, no, no ! I cannot for- 
get ; I cannot forget ; and she raised a great 
wailing cry that filled all the night with 
horror (didst thou not hear it ?), and caught 
up the knife from the bed and thrust it into 
her breast, and fell down a dead heap over 


the bed and on to the man whom she had 
slain. And then I thought of thee, and joy 
smote across my terror ; how shall I gainsay 
it? And I fled away to thee, and I took 
thine hands in mine, thy dear hands, and 
we fled away together. Shall we be still 
together ? 

He spoke slowly, and touched her not, 
and she, forbearing all sobbing and weeping, 
sat looking wistfully on him. He said : I 
think thou hast told me all ; and whether 
thy guile slew her, or her own evil heart, 
she was slain last night who lay in mine 
arms the night before. It was ill, and ill 
done of me, for I loved not her, but thee, 
and I wished for her death that I might be 
with thee. Thou wottest this, and still thou 
lovest me, it may be overweeningly. What 
have I to say then ? If there be any guilt of 
guile, I also was in the guile ; and if there 
be any guilt of murder, I also was in the 
murder. Thus we say to each other; and 
to God and his Hallows we say: We two 
have conspired and slain the woman who tor- 
mented one of us, and would have slain the 
other ; and if we have done amiss therein, then 
shall we two together pay the penalty ; for in 
this have we done as one body and one soul. 


Therewith he put his arms about her and 
kissed her, but soberly and friendly, as if he 
would comfort her. And thereafter he said 
to her : Maybe to-morrow, in the sunlight, 
I will ask thee of this woman, what she 
verily was ; but now let her be. And thou, 
thou art over-wearied, and I bid thee sleep. 

So he went about and gathered of bracken 
a great heap for her bed, and did his coat 
thereover, and led her thereto, and she lay 
down meekly, and smiled and crossed her 
arms over her bosom, and presently fell 
asleep. But as for him, he watched by 
the fire-side till dawn began to glimmer, 
and then he also laid him down and slept. 



WHEN the day was bright Walter 
arose, and met the Maid coming 
up from the river-bank, fresh and 
rosy from the water. She paled a little 
when they met face to face, and she shrank 
from him shyly. But he took her hand and 
kissed her frankly; and the two were glad, 
and had no need to tell each other of their 
joy, though much else they deemed they 
had to say, could they have found words 

So they came to their fire and sat down, 
and fell to breakfast ; and ere they were 
done, the Maid said : My Master, thou 
seest we be come nigh unto the hill-country, 
and to-day about sunset, belike, we shall 
come into the Land of the Bear-folk ; and 
both it is, that there is peril if we fall into 


their hands, and that we may scarce escape 
them. Yet I deem that we may deal with 
the peril by wisdom. 

What is the peril ? said Walter ; I mean, 
what is the worst of it? 

Said the Maid : To be offered up in sacri- 
fice to their God. 

But if we escape death at their hands, 
what then ? said Walter. 

One of two things, said she ; the first, that 
they shall take us into their tribe. 

And will they sunder us in that case ? said 

Nay, said she. 

Walter laughed and said : Therein is little 
harm then. But what is the other chance ? 

Said she : That we leave them with their 
good- will, and come back to one of the lands 
of Christendom. 

Said Walter : I am not all so sure that 
this is the better of the two choices, though, 
forsooth, thou seemest to think so. But tell 
me now, what like is their God, that they 
should offer up new-comers to him ? 

Their God is a woman, she said, and the 
Mother of their nation and tribes (or so they 
deem) before the days when they had chief- 
tains and Lords of Battle. 


That will be long ago, said he ; how then 
may she be living now? 

Said the Maid : Doubtless that woman of 
yore agone is dead this many and many a 
year ; but they take to them still a new 
woman, one after other, as they may happen 
on them, to be in the stead of the Ancient 
Mother. And to tell thee the very truth 
right out, she that lieth dead in the Pillared 
Hall was even the last of these ; and now, if 
they knew it, they lack a God. This shall 
we tell them. 

Yea, yea! said Walter, a goodly welcome 
shall we have of them then, if we come 
amongst them with our hands red with the 
blood of their God ! 

She smiled on him and said : If I come 
amongst them with the tidings that I have 
slain her, and they trow therein, without 
doubt they shall make me Lady and Goddess 
in her stead. 

This is a strange word, said Walter; but 
if so they do, how shall that further us in 
reaching the kindreds of the world, and the 
folk of Holy Church ? 

She laughed outright, so joyous was she 
grown, now that she knew that his life was 
yet to be a part of hers. Sweetheart, she 


said, now I see that thou desirest wholly 
what I desire ; yet in any case, abiding with 
them would be living and not dying, even 
as thou hadst it e'en now. But, forsooth, 
they will not hinder our departure if they 
deem me their God; they do not look for 
it, nor desire it, that their God should dwell 
with them, daily. Have no fear. Then she 
laughed again, and said : What ! thou lookest 
on me and deemest me to be but a sorry 
image of a goddess ; and me with my scanty 
coat and bare arms and naked feet! But 
wait ! I know well how to array me when 
the time cometh. Thou shalt see it ! And 
now, my Master, were it not meet that we 
took to the road ? 

So they arose, and found a ford of the 
river that took the Maid but to the knee, 
and so set forth up the green-sward of the 
slopes whereas there were but few trees ; so 
went they faring toward the hill-country. 

At the last they were come to the feet of 
the very hills, and in the hollows betwixt 
the buttresses of them grew nut and berry 
trees, and the green-sward round about them 
was both thick and much flowery. There 
they stayed them and dined, whereas Walter 
had shot a hare by the way, and they had 


found a bubbling spring under a grey stone 
in a bight of the coppice, wherein now the 
birds were singing their best. 

When they had eaten and had rested 
somewhat, the Maid arose and said : Now 
shall the Queen array herself, and seem like 
a very goddess. 

Then she fell to work, while Walter 
looked on ; and she made a garland for her 
head of eglantine where the roses were the 
fairest ; and with mingled flowers of the 
summer she wreathed her middle about, and 
let the garland of them hang down to below 
her knees ; and knots of the flowers she made 
fast to the skirts of her coat, and did them 
for arm-rings about her arms, and for anklets 
and sandals for her feet. Then she set a 
garland about Walter's head, and then stood 
a little off from him and set her feet together, 
and lifted up her arms, and said : Lo now ! 
am I not as like to the Mother of Summer 
as if I were clad in silk and gold ? and even 
so shall I be deemed by the folk of the Bear. 
Come now, thou shalt see how all shall be 

She laughed joyously ; but he might scarce 
laugh for pity of his love. Then they set 
forth again, and began to climb the hills, 


and the hours wore as they went in sweet 
converse ; till at last Walter looked on the 
Maid, and smiled on her, and said : One 
thing I would say to thee, lovely friend, to 
wit : wert thou clad in silk and gold, thy 
stately raiment might well suffer a few stains, 
or here and there a rent maybe ; but stately 
would it be still when the folk of the Bear 
should come up against thee. But as to this 
flowery array of thine, in a few hours it shall 
be all faded and nought. Nay, even now, 
as I look on thee, the meadow-sweet that 
hangeth from thy girdle-stead has waxen 
dull, and welted ; and the blossoming eye- 
bright that is for a hem to the little white 
coat of thee is already forgetting how to be 
bright and blue. What sayest thou then ? 

She laughed at his word, and stood still, 
and looked back over her shoulder, while 
with her fingers she dealt with the flowers 
about her side like to a bird preening his 
feathers. Then she said : Is it verily so as 
thou sayest ? Look again ! 

So he looked, and- wondered ; for lo ! 
beneath his eyes the spires of the meadow- 
sweet grew crisp and clear again, the eye- 
bright blossoms shone once more over the 
whiteness of her legs; the eglantine roses 


opened, and all was as fresh and bright as if 
it were still growing on its own roots. 

He wondered, and was even somedeal 
aghast ; but she said : Dear friend, be not 
troubled ! did I not tell thee that I am wise 
in hidden lore ? But in my wisdom shall be 
no longer any scathe to any man. And again, 
this my wisdom, as I told thee erst, shall end 
on the day whereon I am made all happy. 
And it is thou that shall wield it all, my 
Master. Yet must my wisdom needs endure 
for a little season yet. Let us on then, boldly 
and happily. 


ON they went, and before long they 
were come up on to the down-country, 
where was scarce a tree, save gnarled 
and knotty thorn-bushes here and there, but 
nought else higher than the whin. And 
here on these upper lands they saw that the 
pastures were much burnt with the drought, 
albeit summer was not worn old. Now 
they went making due south toward the 
mountains, whose heads they saw from time 
to time rising deep blue over the bleak grey- 
ness of the downland ridges. And so they 
went, till at last, hard on sunset, after they 
had climbed long over a high bent, they 
came to the brow thereof, and, looking down, 
beheld new tidings. 

There was a wide valley below them, 
greener than the downs which they had 
come over, and greener yet amidmost, from 


the watering of a stream which, all beset 
with willows, wound about the bottom. 
Sheep and neat were pasturing about the 
dale, and moreover a long line of smoke 
was going up straight into the windless 
heavens from the midst of a ring of little 
round houses built of turfs, and thatched 
with reed. And beyond that, toward an 
eastward-lying bight of the dale, they could 
see what looked like to a doom-ring of big 
stones, though there were no rocky places in 
that land. About the cooking-fire amidst of 
the houses, and here and there otherwhere, 
they saw, standing or going to and fro, huge 
figures of men and women, with children 
playing about betwixt them. 

They stood and gazed down at it for a 
minute or two, and though all were at peace 
there, yet to Walter, at least, it seemed 
strange and awful. He spake softly, as 
though he would not have his voice reach 
those men, though they were, forsooth, out 
of ear-shot of anything save a shout : Are 
these then the children of the Bear ? What 
shall we do now ? 

She said : Yea, of the Bear they be, though 
there be other folks of them far and far away 
to the northward and eastward, near to the 


borders of the sea. And as to what we shall 
do, let us go down at once, and peacefully. 
Indeed, by now there will be no escape from 
them ; for lo you ! they have seen us. 

Forsooth, some three or four of the big 
men had turned them toward the bent 
whereon stood the twain, and were hailing 
them in huge, rough voices, wherein, how- 
soever, seemed to be no anger or threat. So 
the Maid took Walter by the hand, and thus 
they went down quietly, and the Bear-folk, 
seeing them, stood all together, facing them, 
to abide their coming. Walter saw of them, 
that though they were very tall and bigly 
made, they were not so far above the stature 
of men as to be marvels. The carles were 
long-haired, and shaggy of beard, and their 
hair all red or tawny; their skins, where 
their naked flesh showed, were burned brown 
with sun and weather, but to a fair and 
pleasant brown, nought like to blackamoors. 
The queans were comely and well-eyed ; nor 
was there anything of fierce or evil-looking 
about either the carles or the queans, but 
somewhat grave and solemn of aspect were 
they. Clad were they all, saving the young 
men-children, but somewhat scantily, and in 
nought save sheep-skins or deer-skins. 


For weapons they saw amongst them clubs, 
and spears headed with bone or flint, and 
ugly axes of big flints set in wooden handles ; 
nor was there, as far as they could see, either 
now or afterward, any bow amongst them. 
But some of the young men seemed to have 
slings done about their shoulders. 

Now when they were come but three 
fathom from them, the Maid lifted up her 
voice, and spake clearly and sweetly : Hail, 
ye folk of the Bears ! we have come amongst 
you, and that for your good and not for 
your hurt : wherefore we would know if we 
be welcome. 

There was an old man who stood foremost 
in the midst, clad in a mantle of deer-skins 
worked very goodly, and with a gold ring 
on his arm, and a chaplet of blue stones on 
his head, and he spake : Little are ye, but 
so goodly, that if ye were but bigger, we 
should deem that ye were come from the 
Gods' House. Yet have I heard, that how 
mighty soever may the Gods be, and chiefly 
our God, they be at whiles nought so bigly 
made as we of the Bears. How this may be, 
I wot not. But if ye be not of the Gods or 
their kindred, then are ye mere aliens ; and 
we know not what to do with aliens, save 


we meet them in battle, or give them to the 
God, or save we make them children of the 
Bear. But yet again, ye may be messengers 
of some folk who would bind friendship and 
alliance with us : in which case ye shall at 
the least depart in peace, and whiles ye are 
with us shall be our guests in all good cheer. 
Now, therefore, we bid you declare the matter 
unto us. 

Then spake the Maid : Father, it were 
easy for us to declare what we be unto you 
here present. But, meseemeth, ye who be 
gathered round the fire here this evening are 
less than the whole tale of the children of 
the Bear. 

So it is, Maiden, said the elder, that many 
more children hath the Bear. 

This then we bid you, said the Maid, that 
ye send the tokens round and gather your 
people to you, and when they be assembled 
in the Doom-ring, then shall we put our 
errand before you ; and according to that, 
shall ye deal with us. 

Thou hast spoken well, said the elder ; 
and even so had we bidden you ourselves. 
To-morrow, before noon, shall ye stand in 
the Doom-ring in this Dale, and speak with 
the children of the Bear. 

193 o 

Therewith he turned to his own folk and 
called out something, whereof those twain 
knew not the meaning; and there came to 
him, one after another, six young men, unto 
each of whom he gave a thing from out his 
pouch, but what it was Walter might not 
see, save that it was little and of small account : 
to each, also, he spake a word or two, and 
straight they set off running, one after the 
other, turning toward the bent which was 
over against that whereby the twain had 
come into the Dale, and were soon out of 
sight in the gathering dusk. 

Then the elder turned him again to Walter 
and the Maid, and spake : Man and woman, 
whatsoever ye may be, or whatsoever may 
abide you to-morrow, to-night, ye are welcome 
guests to us ; so we bid you come eat and drink 
at our fire. 

So they sat all together upon the grass 
round about the embers of the fire, and ate 
curds and cheese, and drank milk in abun- 
dance ; and as the night grew on them they 
quickened the fire, that they might have 
light. This wild folk talked merrily amongst 
themselves, with laughter enough and friendly 
jests, but to the new-comers they were few- 
spoken, though, as the twain deemed, for no 


enmity that they bore them. But this found 
Walter, that the younger ones, both men and 
women, seemed to find it a hard matter to 
keep their eyes off them ; and seemed, withal, 
to gaze on them with somewhat of doubt, or, 
it might be, of fear. 

So when the night was wearing a little, 
the elder arose and bade the twain to come 
with him, and led them to a small house or 
booth, which was amidmost of all, and some- 
what bigger than the others, and he did them 
to wit that they should rest there that night, 
and bade them sleep in peace and without 
fear till the morrow. So they entered, and 
found beds thereon of heather and ling, and 
they laid them down sweetly, like brother 
and sister, when they had kissed each other. 
But they noted that four brisk men lay 
without the booth, and across the door, 
with their weapons beside them, so that 
they must needs look upon themselves as 

Then Walter might not refrain him, but 
spake : Sweet and dear friend, I have come 
a long way from the quay at Langton, and 
the vision of the Dwarf, the Maid, and the 
Lady ; and for this kiss wherewith I have 
kissed thee e'en now, and the kindness of 


thine eyes, it was worth the time and the 
travail. But to-morrow, meseemeth, I shall 
go no further in this world, though my 
journey be far longer than from Langton 
hither. And now may God and All Hallows 
keep thee amongst this wild folk, whenas I 
shall be gone from thee. 

She laughed low and sweetly, and said : 
Dear friend, dost thou speak to me thus 
mournfully to move me to love thee better? 
Then is thy labour lost ; for no better may I 
love thee than now I do; and that is with 
mine whole heart. But keep a good courage, 
I bid thee ; for we be not sundered yet, nor 
shall we be. Nor do I deem that we shall 
die here, or to-morrow ; but many years 
hence, after we have known all the sweetness 
of life. Meanwhile, I bid thee good night, 
fair friend ! 



SO Walter laid him down and fell 
asleep, and knew no more till he 
awoke in bright daylight with the 
Maid standing over him. She was fresh 
from the water, for she had been to the river 
to bathe her, and the sun through the open 
door fell streaming on her feet close to 
Walter's pillow. He turned about and cast 
his arm about them, and caressed them, 
while she stood smiling upon him ; then he 
arose and looked on her, and said : How 
thou art fair and bright this morning ! And 
yet . . . and yet . . . were it not well that 
thou do off thee all this faded and drooping 
bravery of leaves and blossoms, that maketh 
thee look like to a jongleur's damsel on a 
morrow of Mayday ? 

And he gazed ruefully on her. 

She laughed on him merrily, and said : 

Yea, and belike these others think no better 
of my attire, or not much better ; for yonder 
they are gathering small wood for the burnt- 
offering ; which, forsooth, shall be thou and 
I, unless I better it all by means of the 
wisdom I learned of the old woman, and 
perfected betwixt the stripes of my Mistress, 
whom a little while ago thou lovedst some- 

And as she spake her eyes sparkled, her 
cheek flushed, and her limbs and her feet 
seemed as if they could scarce refrain from 
dancing for joy. Then Walter knit his 
brow, and for a moment a thought half- 
framed was in his mind. Is it so, that she 
will bewray me and live without me ? and 
he cast his eyes on to the ground. But she 
said : Look up, and into mine eyes, friend, 
and see if there be in them any falseness 
toward thee ! For I know thy thought ; 
I know thy thought. Dost thou not see 
that my joy and gladness is for the love of 
thee, and the thought of the rest from trouble 
that is at hand ? 

He looked up, and his eyes met the eyes 
of her love, and he would have cast his 
arms about her ; but she drew aback and 
said : Nay, thou must refrain thee awhile, . 


dear friend, lest these folk cast eyes on us, 
and deem us over lover-like for what I am 
to bid them deem me. Abide a while, and 
then shall all be in me according to thy will. 
But now I must tell thee that it is not very 
far from noon, and that the Bears are stream- 
ing into the Dale, and already there is an 
host of men at the Doom-ring, and, as I 
said, the bale for the burnt-offering is well- 
nigh dight, whether it be for us, or for some 
other creature. And now I have to bid 
thee this, and it will be a thing easy for thee 
to do, to wit, that thou look as if thou wert 
of the race of the Gods, and not to blench, 
or show sign of blenching, whatever betide : 
to yea-say both my yea-say and my nay-say : 
and lastly this, which is the only hard thing 
for thee (but thou hast already done it before 
somewhat), to look upon me with no master- 
ful eyes of love, nor as if thou wert at once 
praying me and commanding me ; rather 
thou shalt so demean thee as if thou wert 
my man all simply, and nowise my master. 

O friend beloved, said Walter, here at 
least art thou the master, and I will do all 
thy bidding, in certain hope of this, that 
either we shall live together or die together. 

But as they spoke, in came the elder, and 

with him a young maiden, bearing with 
them their breakfast of curds and cream and 
strawberries, and he bade them eat. So 
they ate, and were not unmerry ; and the 
while of their eating the elder talked with 
them soberly, but not hardly, or with any 
seeming enmity : and ever his talk gat on to 
the drought, which was now burning up the 
down-pastures ; and how the grass in the 
watered dales, which was no wide spread of 
land, would not hold out much longer unless 
the God sent them rain. And Walter noted 
that those two, the elder and the Maid, 
eyed each other curiously amidst of this 
talk ; the elder intent on what she might 
say, and if she gave heed to his words ; while 
on her side the Maid answered his speech 
graciously and pleasantly, but said little that 
was of any import : nor would she have 
him fix her eyes, which wandered lightly 
from this thing to that; nor would her 
lips grow stern and stable, but ever smiled 
in answer to the light of her eyes, as she sat 
there with her face as the very face of the 
gladness of the summer day. 



AT last the old man said : My children, 
ye shall now come with me unto the 
Doom-ring of our folk, the Bears of 
the Southern Dales, and deliver to them 
your errand ; and I beseech you to have 
pity upon your own bodies, as I have pity 
on them; on thine especially, Maiden, so 
fair and bright a creature as tnou art ; for so 
it is, that if ye deal us out light and lying 
words after the manner of dastards, ye shall 
miss the worship and glory of wending away 
amidst of the flames, a gift to the God and a 
hope to the people, and shall be passed 
by the rods of the folk, until ye faint and 
fail amongst them, and then shall ye be 
thrust down into the flow at the Dale's End, 
and a stone-laden hurdle cast upon you, that 
we may thenceforth forget your folly. 

The Maid now looked full into his eyes, 


and Walter deemed that the old man shrank 
before her ; but she said : Thou art old and 
wise, O great man of the Bears, yet nought 
I need to learn of thee. Now lead us on 
our way to the Stead of the Errands. 

So the elder brought them along to the 
Doom-ring at the eastern end of the Dale ; 
and it was now all peopled with those huge 
men,weaponed after their fashion, and standing 
up, so that the grey stones thereof but showed 
a little over their heads. But amidmost of 
the said Ring was a big stone, fashioned as a 
chair, whereon sat a very old man, long-hoary 
and white-bearded, and on either side of him 
stood a great-limbed woman clad in war- 
gear, holding, each of them, a long spear, 
and with a flint-bladed knife in the girdle ; 
and there were no other women in all the 

Then the elder led those twain into the 
midst of the Mote, and there bade them go 
up on to a wide, flat-topped stone, six feet 
above the ground, just over against the ancient 
chieftain ; and they mounted it by a rough 
stair, and stood there before that folk ; Walter 
in his array of the outward world, which had 
been fair enough, of crimson cloth and silk, 
and white linen, but was now travel-stained 


and worn ; and the Maid with nought upon 
her, save the smock wherein she had fled 
from the Golden House of the Wood beyond 
the World, decked with the faded flowers 
which she had wreathed about her yesterday. 
Nevertheless, so it was, that those big men 
eyed her intently, and with somewhat of 

Now did Walter, according to her bidding, 
sink down on his knees beside her, and draw- 
ing his sword, hold it before him, as if to 
keep all interlopers aloof from the Maid. 
And there was silence in the Mote, and all 
eyes were fixed on those twain. 

At last the old chief arose and spake : Ye 
men, here are come a man and a woman, we 
know not whence ; whereas they have given 
word to our folk who first met them, that 
they would tell their errand to none save the 
Mote of the People ; which it was their due 
to do, if they were minded to risk it. For 
either they be aliens without an errand hither, 
save, it may be, to beguile us, in which case 
they shall presently die an evil death ; or 
they have come amongst us that we may give 
them to the God with flint-edge and fire ; or 
they have a message to us from some folk 
or other, on the issue of which lieth life or 


death. Now shall ye hear what they have to 
say concerning themselves and their faring 
hither. But, meseemeth, it shall be the 
woman who is the chief and hath the 
word in her mouth ; for, lo you ! the man 
kneeleth at her feet, as one who would serve 
and worship her. Speak out then, woman, 
and let our warriors hear thee. 

Then the Maid lifted up her voice, and 
spake out clear and shrilling, like to a flute 
of the best of the minstrels : Ye men of the 
Children of the Bear, I would ask you a 
question, and let the chieftain who sitteth 
before me answer it. 

The old man nodded his head, and she went 
on : Tell me, Children of the Bear, how long 
a time is worn since ye saw the God of your 
worship made manifest in the body of a 
woman ! 

Said the elder : Many winters have worn 
since my father's father was a child, and 
saw the very God in the bodily form of a 

Then she said again : Did ye rejoice at 
her coming, and would ye rejoice if once 
more she came amongst you ? 

Yea, said the old chieftain, for she gave us 
gifts, and learned us lore, and came to us in 


no terrible shape, but as a young woman as 
goodly as thou. 

Then said the Maid : Now, then, is the 
day of your gladness come ; for the old body 
is dead, and I am the new body of your God, 
come amongst you for your welfare. 

Then fell a great silence on the Mote, 
till the old man spake and said : What shall 
I say and live ? For if thou be verily the 
God, and I threaten thee, wilt thou not destroy 
me ? But thou hast spoken a great word with 
a sweet mouth, and hast taken the burden of 
blood on thy lily hands ; and if the Children 
of the Bear be befooled of light liars, how 
shall they put the shame off them ? Therefore 
I say, show to us a token ; and if thou be the 
God, this shall be easy to thee ? and if thou 
show it not, then is thy falsehood manifest, 
and thou shalt dree the weird. For we shall 
deliver thee into the hands of these women 
here, who shall thrust thee down into 
the flow which is hereby, after they have 
wearied themselves with whipping thee. But 
thy man that kneeleth at thy feet shall we 
give to the true God, and he shall go to her 
by the road of the flint and the fire. Hast thou 
heard ? Then give to us the sign and the 


She changed countenance no whit at his 
word ; but her eyes were the brighter, and 
her cheek the fresher ; and her feet moved a 
little, as if they were growing glad before the 
dance ; and she looked out over the Mote, 
and spake in her clear voice : Old man, thou 
needest not to fear for thy words. Forsooth 
it is not me whom thou threatenest with 
stripes and a foul death, but some light fool 
and liar, who is not here. Now hearken ! 
I wot well that ye would have somewhat of 
me, to wit, that I should send you rain to 
end this drought, which otherwise seemeth 
like to lie long upon you : but this rain, I 
must go into the mountains of the south to 
fetch it you ; therefore shall certain of your 
warriors bring me on my way, with this my 
man, up to the great pass of the said moun- 
tains, and we shall set out thitherward this 
very day. 

She was silent a while, and all looked on 
her, but none spake or moved, so that they 
seemed as images of stone amongst the 

Then she spake again and said : Some 
would say, men of the Bear, that this were a 
sign and a token great enough ? but I know 
you, and how stubborn and perverse of heart 


ye be ; and how that the gift not yet within 
your hand is no gift to you ; and the wonder 
ye see not, your hearts trow not. Therefore 
look ye upon me as here I stand, I who have 
come from the fairer country and the green- 
wood of the lands, and see if I bear not the 
summer with me, and the heart that maketh 
increase and the hand that giveth. 

Lo then ! as she spake, the faded flowers 
that hung about her gathered life and grew 
fresh again ; the woodbine round her neck and 
her sleek shoulders knit itself together and 
embraced her freshly, and cast its scent about 
her face. The lilies that girded her loins 
lifted up their heads, and the gold of their 
tassels fell upon her ; the eyebright grew 
clean blue again upon her smock ; the eglan- 
tine found its blooms again, and then began 
to shed the leaves thereof upon her feet ; 
the meadow-sweet wreathed amongst it made 
clear the sweetness of her legs, and the 
mouse-ear studded her raiment as with gems. 
There she stood amidst of the blossoms, like 
a great orient pearl against the fretwork of 
the goldsmiths, and the breeze that came up 
the valley from behind bore the sweetness of 
her fragrance all over the Man-mote. 

Then, indeed, the Bears stood up, and 

shouted and cried, and smote on their shields, 
and tossed their spears aloft. Then the elder 
rose from his seat, and came up humbly to 
where she stood, and prayed her to say what 
she would have done ; while the others drew 
about in knots, but durst not come very nigh 
to her. She answered the ancient chief, and 
said, that she would depart presently toward 
the mountains, whereby she might send them 
the rain which they lacked, and that thence 
she would away to the southward for a while ; 
but that they should hear of her, or, it might 
be, see her, before they who were now of 
middle age should be gone to their fathers. 

Then the old man besought her that they 
might make her a litter of fragrant green 
boughs, and so bear her away toward the 
mountain pass amidst a triumph of the whole 
folk. But she leapt lightly down from the 
stone, and walked to and fro on the green- 
sward, while it seemed of her that her feet 
scarce touched the grass ; and she spake to 
the ancient chief where he still kneeled in 
worship of her, and said : Nay ; deemest thou 
of me that I need bearing by men's hands, 
or that I shall tire at all when I am doing my 
will, and I, the very heart of the year's in- 
crease ? So it is, that the going of my feet 


over your pastures shall make them to thrive, 
both this year and the coming years : surely 
will I go afoot. 

So they worshipped her the more, and 
blessed her ; and then first of all they brought 
meat, the daintiest they might, both for her 
and for Walter. But they would not look 
on the Maid whiles she ate, or suffer Walter 
to behold her the while. Afterwards, when 
they had eaten, some twenty men, weaponed 
after their fashion, made them ready to wend 
with the Maiden up into the mountains, and 
anon they set out thitherward all together. 
Howbeit, the huge men held them ever 
somewhat aloof from the Maid ; and when 
they came to the resting-place for that night, 
where was no house, for it was up amongst 
the foot-hills before the mountains, then it 
was a wonder to see how carefully they built 
up a sleeping-place for her, and tilted it over 
with their skin-cloaks, and how they watched 
nightlong about her. But Walter they let 
sleep peacefully on the grass, a little way 
aloof from the watchers round the Maid. 



MORNING came, and they arose and 
went on their ways, and went all 
day till the sun was nigh set, and 
they were come up into the very pass ; and 
in the jaws thereof was an earthen ho we. 
There the Maid bade them stay, and she 
went up on to the howe, and stood there and 
spake to them, and said : O men of the Bear, 
I give you thanks for your following, and I 
bless you, and promise you the increase of 
the earth. But now ye shall turn aback, and 
leave me to go my ways ; and my man with 
the iron sword shall follow me. Now, maybe, 
I shall come amongst the Bear-folk again be- 
fore long, and yet again, and learn them 
wisdom ; but for this time it is enough. And 
I shall tell you that ye were best to hasten 
home straightway to your houses in the down- 


land dales, for the weather which I have 
bidden for you is even now coming forth 
from the forge of storms in the heart of the 
mountains. Now this last word I give you, 
that times are changed since I wore the last 
shape of God that ye have seen, wherefore a 
change I command you. If so be aliens come 
amongst you, I will not that ye send them to 
me by the flint and the fire ; rather, unless 
they be baleful unto you, and worthy of an 
evil death, ye shall suffer them to abide with 
you ; ye shall make them become children 
of the Bears, if they be goodly enough and 
worthy, and they shall be my children as ye 
be ; otherwise, if they be ill-favoured and weak- 
ling, let them live and be thralls to you, but 
not join with you, man to woman. Now 
depart ye with my blessing. 

Therewith she came down from the mound, 
and went her ways up the pass so lightly, 
that it was to Walter, standing amongst the 
Bears, as if she had vanished away. But the 
men of that folk abode standing and worship- 
ping their God for a little while, and that 
while he durst not sunder him from their 
company. But when they had blessed him 
and gone on their way backward, he betook 
him in haste to following the Maid, thinking 


to find her abiding him in some nook of the 

Howsoever, it was now twilight or more, 
and, for all his haste, dark night overtook 
him, so that perforce he was stayed amidst 
the tangle of the mountain ways. And, 
moreover, ere the night was grown old, the 
weather came upon him on the back of a 
great south wind, so that the mountain nooks 
rattled and roared, and there was the rain 
and the hail, with thunder and lightning, 
monstrous and terrible, and all the huge array 
of a summer storm. So he was driven at last 
to crouch under a big rock and abide the day. 

But not so were his troubles at an end. 
For under the said rock he fell asleep, and 
when he awoke it was day indeed ; but as to 
the pass, the way thereby was blind with 
the driving rain and the lowering lift; so 
that, though he struggled as well as he 
might against the storm and the tangle, he 
made but little way. 

And now once more the thought came on 
him, that the Maid was of the fays, or of 
some race even mightier ; and it came on 
him now not as erst, with half fear and 
whole desire, but with a bitter oppression of 
dread, of loss and misery ; so that he began 


to fear that she had but won his love to 
leave him and forget him for a new-comer, 
after the wont of fay-women, as old tales tell. 
Two days he battled thus with storm and 
blindness, and wanhope of his life ; for he 
was growing weak and fordone. But the 
third morning the storm abated, though the 
rain yet fell heavily, and he could see his 
way somewhat as well as feel it : withal he 
found that now his path was leading him 
downwards. As it grew dusk, he came 
down into a grassy valley with a stream 
running through it to the southward, and 
the rain was now but little, coming down 
but in dashes from time to time. So he crept 
down to the stream-side, and lay amongst 
the bushes there ; and said to himself, that 
on the morrow he would get him victual, 
so that he might live to seek his Maiden 
through the wide world. He was of some- 
what better heart : but now that he was 
laid quiet, and had no more for that present 
to trouble him about the way, the anguish 
of his loss fell upon him the keener, and he 
might not refrain him from lamenting his 
dear Maiden aloud, as one who deemed him- 
self in the empty wilderness : and thus he 
lamented for her sweetness and her loveli- 


ness, and the kindness of her voice and her 
speech, and her mirth. Then he fell to 
crying out concerning the beauty of her 
shaping, praising the parts of her body, as 
her face, and her hands, and her shoulders, 
and her feet, and cursing the evil fate which 
had sundered him from the friendliness of 
her, and the peerless fashion of her. 



COMPLAINING thus-wise, he fell 
asleep from sheer weariness, and when 
he awoke it was broad day, calm and 
bright and cloudless, with the scent of the 
earth refreshed going up into the heavens, 
and the birds singing sweetly in the bushes 
about him : for the dale whereunto he was 
now come was a fair and lovely place amidst 
the shelving slopes of the mountains, a 
paradise of the wilderness, and nought but 
pleasant and sweet things were to be seen 
there, now that the morn was so clear and 

He arose and looked about him, and saw 
where, a hundred yards aloof, was a thicket 
of small wood, as thorn and elder and white- 
beam, all wreathed about with the bines of 
wayfaring tree ; it hid a bight of the stream, 
which turned round about it, and betwixt it 


and Walter was the grass short and thick, 
and sweet, and all beset with flowers ; and 
he said to himself that it was even such a 
place as wherein the angels were leading the 
Blessed in the great painted paradise in the 
choir of the big church at Langton on Holm. 
But lo ! as he looked he cried aloud for joy, 
for forth from the thicket on to the flowery 
grass came one like to an angel from out of the 
said picture, white-clad and bare-foot, sweet 
of flesh, with bright eyes and ruddy cheeks ; 
for it was the Maid herself. So he ran to 
her, and she abode him, holding forth kind 
hands to him, and smiling, while she wept 
for joy of the meeting. He threw himself 
upon her, and spared not to kiss her, her 
cheeks and her mouth, and her arms and her 
shoulders, and wheresoever she would suffer 
it. Till at last she drew aback a little, 
laughing on him for love, and said : Forbear 
now, friend, for it is enough for this time, 
and tell me how thou hast sped. 

Ill, ill, said he. 

What ails thee ? she said. 

Hunger, he said, and longing for thee. 

Well, she said, me thou hast ; there is one 
ill quenched ; take my hand, and we will 
see to the other one. 


So he took her hand, and to hold it seemed 
to him sweet beyond measure. But he 
looked up, and saw a little blue smoke going 
up into the air from beyond the thicket ; 
and he laughed, for he was weak with 
hunger, and he said : Who is at the cooking 
yonder ? 

Thou shalt see, she said ; and led him 
therewith into the said thicket and through 
it, and lo! a fair little grassy place, full of 
flowers, betwixt the bushes and the bight of 
the stream ; and on the little sandy ere, 
just off the green-sward, was a fire of sticks, 
and beside it two trouts lying, fat and red- 

Here is the breakfast, said she ; when 
it was time to wash the night off me e'en 
now, I went down the strand here into the 
rippling shallow, and saw the bank below 
it, where the water draws together yonder, 
and deepens, that it seemed like to hold fish ; 
and, whereas I looked to meet thee presently, 
I groped the bank for them, going softly ; 
and lo thou! Help me now, that we cook 

So they roasted them on the red embers, 
and fell to and ate well, both of them, and 
drank of the water of the stream out of each 


other's hollow hands ; and that feast seemed 
glorious to them, such gladness went with it. 

But when they were done with their 
meat, Walter said to the Maid : 

And how didst thou know that thou 
shouldst see me presently ? 

She said, looking on him wistfully : This 
needed no wizardry. I lay not so far from 
thee last night, but that I heard thy voice 
and knew it. 

Said he, Why didst thou not come to me 
then, since thou heardest me bemoaning thee ? 

She cast her eyes down, and plucked at 
the flowers and grass, and said : It was dear 
to hear thee praising me ; I knew not before 
that I was so sore desired, or that thou 
hadst taken such note of my body, and found 
it so dear. 

Then she reddened sorely, and said : I 
knew not that aught of me had such beauty 
as thou didst bewail. 

And she wept for joy. Then she looked 
on him and smiled, and said : Wilt thou have 
the very truth of it ? I went close up to thee, 
and stood there hidden by the bushes and the 
night. And amidst thy bewailing, I knew 
that thou wouldst soon fall asleep, and in sooth 
I out-waked thee. 


Then was she silent again ; and he spake 
not, but looked on her shyly ; and she said, 
reddening yet more : Furthermore, I must 
needs tell thee that I feared to go to thee in 
the dark night, and my heart so yearning 
towards thee. 

And she hung her head adown ; but he 
said : Is it so indeed, that thou fearest me ? 
Then doth that make me afraid . . . afraid 
of thy nay-say. For I was going to entreat thee, 
and say to thee : Beloved, we have now gone 
through many troubles ; let us now take a 
good reward at once, and wed together, here 
amidst this sweet and pleasant house of the 
mountains, ere we go further on our way ; if 
indeed we go further at all. For where shall 
we find any place sweeter or happier than 
this ? 

But she sprang up to her feet, and stood there 
trembling before him, because of her love ; 
and she said : Beloved, I have deemed that 
it were good for us to go seek mankind as 
they live in the world, and to live amongst 
them. And as for me, I will tell thee the 
sooth, to wit, that I long for this sorely. For 
I feel afraid in the wilderness, and as if I 
needed help and protection against my Mis- 
tress, though she be dead ; and I need the 


comfort of many people, and the throngs of 
the cities. I cannot forget her : it was but 
last night that I dreamed (I suppose as the 
dawn grew a-cold) that I was yet under her 
hand, and she was stripping me for the tor- 
ment ; so that I woke up panting and crying 
out. I pray thee be not angry with me for 
telling thee of my desires ; for if thou wouldst 
not have it so, then here will I abide with 
thee as thy mate, and strive to gather courage. 

He rose up and kissed her face, and said : 
Nay, I had in sooth no mind to abide here 
for ever ; I meant but that we should feast a 
while here, and then depart : sooth it is, that 
if thou dreadest the wilderness, somewhat I 
dread the city. 

She turned pale, and said : Thou shalt 
have thy will, my friend, if it must be so. 
But bethink thee ! we be not yet at our 
journey's end, and may have many things and 
much strife to endure, before we be at peace 
and in welfare. Now shall I tell thee . . . 
did I not before ? . . . that while I am a 
maid untouched, my wisdom, and somedeal 
of might, abideth with me, and only so long. 
Therefore I entreat thee, let us go now, side 
by side, out of this fair valley, even as we are, 
so that my wisdom and might may help thee 


at need. For, my friend, I would not that 
our lives be short, so much of joy as hath 
now come into them. 

Yea, beloved, he said, let us on straightway 
then, and shorten the while that sundereth us. 

Love, she said, thou shalt pardon me one 
time for all. But this is to be said, that I 
know somewhat of the haps that lie a little 
way ahead of us; partly by my lore, and 
partly by what I learned of this land of the 
wild folk whiles thou wert lying asleep that 

So they left that pleasant place by the 
water, and came into the open valley, and 
went their ways through the pass ; and it 
soon became stony again, as they mounted 
the bent which went up from out the dale. 
And when they came to the brow of the said 
bent, they had a sight of the open country 
lying fair and joyous in the sunshine, and 
amidst of it, against the blue hills, the walls 
and towers of a great city. 

Then said the Maid : O, dear friend, lo you ! 
is not that our abode that lieth yonder, and is 
so beauteous ? Dwell not our friends there, 
and our protection against uncouth wights, 
and mere evil things in guileful shapes? O 
city, I bid thee hail! 


But Walter looked on her, and smiled 
somewhat ; and said : I rejoice in thy joy. 
But there be evil things in yonder city also, 
though they be not fays nor devils, or it is 
like to no city that I wot of. And in every 
city shall foes grow up to us without rhyme 
or reason, and life therein shall be tangled 
unto us. 

Yea, she said; but in the wilderness 
amongst the devils, what was to be done 
by manly might or valiancy ? There hadst 
thou to fall back upon the guile and wizardry 
which I had filched from my very foes. But 
when we come down yonder, then shall thy 
valiancy prevail to cleave the tangle for us. 
Or at the least, it shall leave a tale of thee 
behind, and I shall worship thee. 

He laughed, and his face grew brighter : 
Mastery mows the meadow, quoth he, and 
one man is of little might against many. But 
I promise thee I shall not be slothful before 



WITH that they went down from 
the bent again, and came to where 
the pass narrowed so much, that 
they went betwixt a steep wall of rock on 
either side ; but after an hour's going, the 
said wall gave back suddenly, and, or they 
were ware almost, they came on another dale 
like to that which they had left, but not so 
fair, though it was grassy and well watered, 
and not so big either. But here indeed be- 
fell a change to them ; for lo ! tents and 
pavilions pitched in the said valley, and 
amidst of it a throng of men, mostly 
weaponed, and with horses ready saddled at 
hand. So they stayed their feet, and Walter's 
heart failed him, for he said to himself: Who 
wotteth what these men may be, save that 
they be aliens ? It is most like that we shall 
be taken as thralls ; and then, at the best, we 


shall be sundered ; and that is all one with 
the worst. 

But the Maid, when she saw the horses, 
and the gay tents, and the pennons fluttering, 
and the glitter of spears, and gleaming of 
white armour, smote her palms together 
for joy, and cried out: Here now are come 
the folk of the city for our welcoming, and 
fair and lovely are they, and of many things 
shall they be thinking, and a many things 
shall they do, and we shall be partakers 
thereof. Come then, and let us meet them, 
fair friend ! 

But Walter said : Alas ! thou knowest 
not : would that we might flee ! But now is 
it over late ; so put we a good face on it, 
and go to them quietly, as erewhile we did 
in the Bear-country. 

So did they ; and there sundered six from 
the men-at-arms and came to those twain, 
and made humble obeisance to Walter, but 
spake no word. Then they made as they 
would lead them to the others, and the 
twain went with them wondering, and came 
into the ring of men-at-arms, and stood 
before an old hoar knight, armed all, save 
his head, with most goodly armour, and he 
also bowed before Walter, but spake no 


word. Then they took them to the master 
pavilion, and made signs to them to sit, and 
they brought them dainty meat and good 
wine. And the while of their eating arose 
up a stir about them; and when they were 
done with their meat, the ancient knight 
came to them, still bowing in courteous 
wise, and did them to wit by signs that they 
should depart : and when they were without, 
they saw all the other tents struck, and men 
beginning to busy them with striking the 
pavilion, and the others mounted and ranked 
in good order for the road ; and there were 
two horse-litters before them, wherein they 
were bidden to mount, Walter in one, and 
the Maid in the other, and no otherwise 
might they do. Then presently was a horn 
blown, and all took to the road together ; 
and Walter saw betwixt the curtains of the 
litter that men-at-arms rode on either side of 
him, albeit they had left him his sword by 
his side. 

So they went down the mountain-passes, 
and before sunset were gotten into the plain ; 
but they made no stay for night-fall, save to 
eat a morsel and drink a draught, going 
through the night as men who knew their 
way well. As they went, Walter wondered 

225 Q 

what would betide, and if peradventure they 
also would be for offering them up to their 
Gods ; whereas they were aliens for certain, 
and belike also Saracens. Moreover there 
was a cold fear at his heart that he should 
be sundered from the Maid, whereas their 
masters now were mighty men of war, hold- 
ing in their hands that which all men desire, 
to wit, the manifest beauty of a woman. 
Yet he strove to think the best of it that he 
might. And so at last, When the night was 
far spent, and dawn was at hand, they stayed 
at a great and mighty gate in a huge wall. 
There they blew loudly on the horn thrice, 
and thereafter the gates were opened, and 
they all passed through into a street, which 
seemed to Walter in the glimmer to be both 
great and goodly amongst the abodes of 
men. Then it was but a little ere they 
came into a square, wide-spreading, one side 
whereof Walter took to be the front of a 
most goodly house. There the doors of 
the court opened to them or ever the horn 
might blow, though, forsooth, blow it did 
loudly three times ; all they entered therein, 
and men came to Walter and signed to him 
to alight. So did he, and would have 
tarried to look about for the Maid, but they 


suffered it not, but led him up a huge stair 
into a chamber, very great, and but dimly 
lighted because of its greatness. Then they 
brought him to a bed dight as fair as might 
be, and made signs to him to strip and lie 
therein. Perforce he did so, and then they 
bore away his raiment, and left him lying 
there. So he lay there quietly, deeming 
it no avail for him, a mother-naked man, 
to seek escape thence ; but it was long 
ere he might sleep, because of his trouble of 
mind. At last, pure weariness got the better 
of his hopes and fears, and he fell into 
slumber just as the dawn was passing into 



WHEN he awoke again the sun was 
shining brightly into that chamber, 
and he looked, and beheld that it 
was peerless of beauty and riches, amongst 
all that he had ever seen : the ceiling done 
with gold and over-sea blue ; the walls hung 
with arras of the fairest, though he might 
not tell what was the history done therein. 
The chairs and stools were of carven work 
well be-painted, and amidmost was a great 
ivory chair under a cloth of estate, ofbawde- 
kin of gold and green, much be-pearled ; and 
all the floor was of fine work alexandrine. 

He looked on all this, wondering what had 
befallen him, when lo ! there came folk into 
the chamber, to wit, two serving-men well- 
bedight, and three old men clad in rich gowns 
of silk. These came to him and (still by 


signs, without speech) bade him arise and 
come with them ; and when he bade them 
look to it that he was naked, and laughed 
doubtfully, they neither laughed in answer, 
nor offered him any raiment, but still would 
have him arise, and he did so perforce. They 
brought him with them out of the chamber, 
and through certain passages pilfered and 
goodly, till they came to a bath as fair as any 
might be ; and there the serving-men washed 
him carefully and tenderly, the old men look- 
ing on the while. When it was done, still 
they offered not to clothe him, but led him 
out, and through the passages again, back to 
the chamber. Only this time he must pass 
between a double hedge of men, some 
weaponed, some in peaceful array, but all 
clad gloriously, and full chieftain-like of 
aspe6l, either for valiancy or wisdom. 

In the chamber itself was now a concourse 
of men, of great estate by deeming of their 
array ; but all these were standing orderly in 
a ring about the ivory chair aforesaid. Now 
said Walter to himself: Surely all this looks 
toward the knife and the altar for me ; but 
he kept a stout countenance despite of all. 

So they led him up to the ivory chair, and 
he beheld on either side thereof a bench, and 


on each was laid a set of raiment from the shirt 
upwards ; but there was much diversity be- 
twixt these arrays. For one was all of robes 
of peace, glorious and be-gemmed, unmeet 
for any save a great king; while the other 
was war-weed, seemly, well-fashioned, but 
little adorned ; nay rather, worn and bestained 
with weather, and the pelting of the spear- 

Now those old men signed to Walter to 
take which of those raiments he would, and 
do it on. He looked to the right and the 
left, and when he had looked on the war- 
gear, the heart arose in him, and he called to 
mind the array of the Goldings in the fore- 
front of battle, and he made one step toward 
the weapons, and laid his hand thereon. Then 
ran a glad murmur through that concourse, 
and the old men drew up to him smiling and 
joyous, and helped him to do them on ; and 
as he took up the helm, he noted that over 
its broad brown iron sat a golden crown. 

So when he was clad and weaponed, girt 
with a sword, and a steel axe in his hand, the 
elders showed him to the ivory throne, and 
he laid the axe on the arm of the chair, and 
drew forth the sword from the scabbard, and 
sat him down, and laid the ancient blade 


across his knees; then he looked about on 
those great men, and spake : How long shall 
we speak no word to each other, or is it so 
that God hath stricken you dumb ? 

Then all they cried out with one voice : 
All hail to the King, the King of Battle ! 

Spake Walter : If I be king, will ye do my 
will as I bid you ? 

Answered the elder : Nought have we 
will to do, lord, save as thou biddest. 

Said Walter : Thou then, wilt thou answer 
a question in all truth ? 

Yea, lord, said the elder, if I may live 

Then said Walter : The woman that came 
with me into your Camp of the Mountain, 
what hath befallen her ? 

The elder answered : Nought hath befallen 
her, either of good or evil, save that she hath 
slept and eaten and bathed her. What, then, 
is the King's pleasure concerning her ? 

That ye bring her hither to me straight- 
way, said Walter. 

Yea, said the elder ; and in what guise 
shall we bring her hither ? shall she be arrayed 
as a servant, or a great lady ? 

Then Walter pondered a while, and spake 
at last : Ask her what is her will herein, and 


as she will have it, so let it be. But set 
ye another chair beside mine, and lead her 
thereto. Thou wise old man, send one or two 
to bring her in hither, but abide thou, for I 
have a question or two to ask of thee yet. 
And ye, lords, abide here the coming of my 
she-fellow, if it weary you not. 

So the elder spake to three of the most 
honourable of the lords, and they went their 
ways to bring in the Maid. 



MEANWHILE the King spake to 
the elder, and said : Now tell me 
whereof I am become king, and 
what is the fashion and cause of the king- 
making ; for wondrous it is to me, whereas 
I am but an alien amidst of mighty men. 

Lord, said the old man, thou art become 
king of a mighty city, which hath under it 
many other cities and wide lands, and havens 
by the sea-side, and which lacketh no wealth 
which men desire. Many wise men dwell 
therein, and of fools not more than in other 
lands. A valiant host shall follow thee to 
battle when needs must thou wend afield ; an 
host not to be withstood, save by the ancient 
God-folk, if any of them were left upon the 
earth, as belike none are. And as to the 
name of our said city, it hight the City of 


the Stark-wall, or more shortly, Stark-wall. 
Now as to the fashion of our king-making : 
If our king dieth and leaveth an heir male, 
begotten of his body, then is he king after 
him ; but if he die and leave no heir, then 
send we out a great lord, with knights and 
sergeants, to that pass of the mountain 
whereto ye came yesterday ; and the first 
man that cometh unto them, they take and 
lead to the city, as they did with thee, lord. 
For we believe and trow that of old time our 
forefathers came down from the mountains 
by that same pass, poor and rude, but full 
of valiancy, before they conquered these 
lands, and builded the Stark-wall. But now 
furthermore, when we have gotten the said 
wanderer, and brought him home to our 
city, we behold him mother-naked, all the 
great men of us, both sages and warriors ; 
then if we find him ill-fashioned and counter- 
feit of his body, we roll him in a great carpet 
till he dies ; or whiles, if he be but a simple 
man, and without guile, we deliver him for 
thrall to some artificer amongst us, as a shoe- 
maker, a wright, or what not, and so forget 
him. But in either case we make as if no 
such man had come to us, and we send again 
the lord and his knights to watch the pass ; 


for we say that such an one the Fathers of old 
time have not sent us. But again, when we 
have seen to the new-comer that he is well- 
fashioned of his body, all is not done ; for 
we deem that never would the Fathers send 
us a dolt or a craven to be our king. There- 
fore we bid the naked one take to him which 
he will of these raiments, either the ancient 
armour, which now thou bearest, lord, or this 
golden raiment here ; and if he take the 
war-gear, as thou takedst it, King, it is well ; 
but if he take the raiment of peace, then hath 
he the choice either to be thrall of some 
goodman of the city, or to be proven how 
wise he may be, and so fare the narrow edge 
betwixt death and kingship ; for if he fall 
short of his wisdom, then shall he die the 
death. Thus is thy question answered, King, 
and praise be to the Fathers that they have 
sent us one whom none may doubt, either for 
wisdom or valiancy. 



THEN all they bowed before the King, 
and he spake again : What is that 
noise that I hear without, as if it 
were the rising of the sea on a sandy shore, 
when the south-west wind is blowing. 

Then the elder opened his mouth to 
answer ; but before he might get out the 
word, there was a stir without the chamber 
door, and the throng parted, and lo! amidst 
of them came the Maid, and she yet clad in 
nought save the white coat wherewith she 
had won through the wilderness, save that on 
her head was a garland of red roses, and her 
middle was wreathed with the same. Fresh 
and fair she was as the dawn of June ; her 
face bright, red-lipped, and clear-eyed, and 
her cheeks flushed with hope and love. She 
went straight to Walter where he sat, and 
lightly put away with her hand the elder 


who would lead her to the ivory throne 
beside the King ; but she knelt down before 
him, and laid her hand on his steel-clad knee, 
and said : O my lord, now I see that thou 
hast beguiled me, and that thou wert all 
along a king-born man coming home to thy 
realm. But so dear thou hast been to me ; 
and so fair and clear, and so kind withal do 
thine eyes shine on me from under the grey 
war-helm, that I will beseech thee not to cast 
me out utterly, but suffer me to be thy servant 
and handmaid for a while. Wilt thou not ? 

But the King stooped down to her and 
raised her up, and stood on his feet, and took 
her hands and kissed them, and set her down 
beside him, and said to her : Sweetheart, this 
is now thy place till the night cometh, even 
by my side. 

So she sat down there meek and valiant, 
her hands laid in her lap, and her feet one over 
the other ; while the King said : Lords, this 
is my beloved, and my spouse. Now, there- 
fore, if ye will have me for King, ye must 
worship this one for Queen and Lady ; or 
else suffer us both to go our ways in peace. 

Then all they that were in the chamber 
cried out aloud : The Queen, the Lady ! The 
beloved of our lord ! 


And this cry came from their hearts, and 
not their lips only ; for as they looked on 
her, and the brightness of her beauty, they 
saw also the meekness of her demeanour, and 
the high heart of her, and they all fell to 
loving her. But the young men of them, 
their cheeks flushed as they beheld her, and 
their hearts went out to her, and they drew 
their swords and brandished them aloft, and 
cried out for her as men made suddenly drunk 
with love : The Queen, the Lady, the lovely 
one ! 



BUT while this betid, that murmur 
without, which is aforesaid, grew 
louder ; and it smote on the King's 
ear, and he said again to the elder : Tell us 
now of that noise withoutward, what is it ? 

Said the elder : If thou, King, and the 
Queen, wilt but arise and stand in the win- 
dow, and go forth into the hanging gallery 
thereof, then shall ye know at once what is 
this rumour, and therewithal shall ye see a 
sight meet to rejoice the heart of a king new 
come into kingship. 

So the King arose and took the Maid by 
the hand, and went to the window and 
looked forth ; and lo ! the great square of the 
place all thronged with folk as thick as they 
could stand, and the more part of the carles 
with a weapon in hand, and many armed 
right gallantly. Then he went out into the 


gallery with his Queen, still holding her 
hand, and his lords and wise men stood 
behind him. Straightway then arose a cry, 
and a shout of joy and welcome that rent the 
very heavens, and the great place was all 
glittering and strange with the tossing up of 
spears and the brandishing of swords, and the 
stretching forth of hands. 

But the Maid spake softly to King Walter 
and said : Here then is the wilderness left 
behind a long way, and here is warding and 
protection against the foes of our life and soul. 
O blessed be thou and thy valiant heart ! 

But Walter spake nothing, but stood as 
one in a dream ; and yet, if that might be, 
his longing toward her increased manifold. 

But down below, amidst of the throng, 
stood two neighbours somewhat anigh to the 
window ; and quoth one to the other : See 
thou ! the new man in the ancient armour of 
the Battle of the Waters, bearing the sword 
that slew the foeman king on the Day of the 
Doubtful Onset ! Surely this is a sign of 
good-luck to us all. 

Yea, said the second, he beareth his armour 
well, and the eyes are bright in the head of 
him ; but hast thou beheld well his she-fellow, 
and what the like of her is ? 


I see her, said the other, that she is a fair 
woman ; yet somewhat worse clad than 
simply. She is in her smock, man, and 
were it not for the balusters I deem ye 
should see her barefoot. What is amiss 
with her? 

Dost thou not see her, said the second 
neighbour, that she is not only a fair woman, 
but yet more, one of those lovely ones that 
draw the heart out of a man's body, one may 
scarce say for why ? Surely Stark-wall hath 
cast a lucky net this time. And as to her 
raiment, I see of her that she is clad in white 
and wreathed with roses, but that the flesh of 
her is so wholly pure and sweet that it 
maketh all her attire but a part of her body, 
and halloweth it, so that it hath the semblance 
of gems. Alas, my friend ! let us hope that 
this Queen will fare abroad unseldom amongst 
the people. 

Thus, then, they spake ; but after a while 
the King and his mate went back into the 
chamber, and he gave command that the 
women of the Queen should come and fetch 
her away, to attire her in royal array. And 
thither came the fairest of the honourable 
damsels, and were fain of being her waiting- 
women. Therewithal the King was un- 

241 R 

armed, and dight most gloriously, but still 
he bore the Sword of the King's Slaying : 
and sithence were the King and the Queen 
brought into the great hall of the palace, and 
they met on the dais, and kissed before the 
lords and other folk that thronged the hall. 
There they ate a morsel and drank a cup 
together, while all beheld them ; and then 
were they brought forth, and a white horse 
of the goodliest, well bedight, brought for 
each of them, and thereon they mounted, and 
went their ways together, by the lane which 
the huge throng made for them, to the great 
church, for the hallowing and the crowning ; 
and they were led by one squire alone, and 
he unarmed ; for such was the custom of 
Stark-wall when a new king should be 
hallowed : so came they to the great church 
(for that folk was not miscreant, so to say), 
and they entered it, they two alone, and 
went into the choir: and when they had 
stood there a little while wondering at their 
lot, they heard how the bells fell a-ringing 
tunefully over their heads ; and then drew 
near the sound of many trumpets blowing 
together, and thereafter the voices of many 
folk singing ; and then were the great doors 
thrown open, and the bishop and his priests 


came into the church with singing and 
minstrelsy, and thereafter came the whole 
throng of the folk, and presently the nave of 
the church was filled by it, as when the water 
follows the cutting of the dam, and fills up 
the dyke. Thereafter came the bishop and 
his mates into the choir, and came up to the 
King, and gave him and the Queen the kiss 
of peace. Then was mass sung gloriously ; 
and thereafter was the King anointed and 
crowned, and great joy was made throughout 
the church. Afterwards they went back 
afoot to the palace, they two alone together, 
with none but the esquire going before to 
show them the way. And as they went, 
they passed close beside those two neigh- 
bours, whose talk has been told of afore, and 
the first one, he who had praised the King's 
war-array, spake and said : Truly, neighbour, 
thou art in the right of it ; and now the 
Queen has been dight duly, and hath a 
crown on her head, and is clad in white 
samite done all over with pearls, I see her to 
be of exceeding goodliness ; as goodly, maybe, 
as the Lord King. 

Quoth the other : Unto me she seemeth 
as she did e'en now ; she is clad in white, as 
then she was, and it is by reason of the pure 


and sweet flesh of her that the pearls shine 
out and glow, and by the holiness of her 
body is her rich attire hallowed; but, for- 
sooth, it seemed to me as she went past as 
though paradise had come anigh to our city, 
and that all the air breathed of it. So I say, 
praise be to God and His Hallows who hath 
suffered her to dwell amongst us ! 

Said the first man : Forsooth, it is well ; 
but knowest thou at all whence she cometh, 
and of what lineage she may be ? 

Nay, said the other, I wot not whence 
she is ; but this I wot full surely, that when 
she goeth away, they whom she leadeth 
with her shall be well bestead. Again, of 
her lineage nought know I ; but this I know, 
that they that come of her, to the twentieth 
generation, shall bless and praise the memory 
of her, and hallow her name little less than 
they hallow the name of the Mother of 

So spake those two ; but the King and 
Queen came back to the palace, and sat 
among the lords and at the banquet which 
was held thereafter, and long was the time of 
their glory, till the night was far spent and 
all men must seek to their beds. 



LONG it was, indeed, till the women, 
by the King's command, had brought 
the Maid to the King's chamber ; and 
he met her, and took her by the shoulders 
and kissed her, and said: Art thou not 
weary, sweetheart ? Doth not the city, and 
the thronging folk, and the watching eyes 
of the great ones . . . doth it not all lie 
heavy on thee, as it doth upon me ? 

She said : And where is the city now ? is 
not this the wilderness again, and thou and 
I alone together therein ? 

He gazed at her eagerly, and she reddened, 
so that her eyes shone light amidst the dark- 
ness of the flush of her cheeks. 

He spake trembling and softly, and said : 
Is it not in one matter better than the 
wilderness ? is not the fear gone, yea, every 
whit thereof? 


The dark flush had left her face, and 
she looked on him exceeding sweetly, and 
spoke steadily and clearly : Even so it is, 
beloved. Therewith she set her hand to 
the girdle that girt her loins, and did it off, 
and held it out toward him, and said : Here 
is the token ; this is a maid's girdle, and the 
woman is ungirt. 

So he took the girdle and her hand withal, 
and cast his arms about her : and amidst the 
sweetness of their love and their safety, and 
assured hope of many days of joy, they spake 
together of the hours when they fared the 
razor-edge betwixt guile and misery and 
death, and the sweeter yet it grew to them 
because of it ; and many things she told him 
ere the dawn, of the evil days bygone, and 
the dealings of the Mistress with her, till 
the grey day stole into the chamber to make 
manifest her loveliness ; which, forsooth, was 
better even than the deeming of that man 
amidst the throng whose heart had been 
so drawn towards her. So they rejoiced 
together in the new day. 

But when the full day was, and Walter 
arose, he called his thanes and wise men to 
the council; and first he bade open the 
prison-doors, and feed the needy and clothe 


them, and make good cheer to all men, high 
and low, rich and unrich ; and thereafter he 
took counsel with them on many matters, 
and they marvelled at his wisdom and the 
keenness of his wit ; and so it was, that 
some were but half pleased thereat, whereas 
they saw that their will was like to give way 
before his in all matters. But the wiser of 
them rejoiced in him, and looked for good 
days while his life lasted. 

Now of the deeds that he did, and his joys 
and his griefs, the tale shall tell no more ; 
nor of how he saw Langton again, and his 
dealings there. 

In Stark-wall he dwelt, and reigned a 
King, well beloved of his folk, sorely feared 
of their foemen. Strife he had to deal with, 
at home and abroad ; but therein he was not 
quelled, till he fell asleep fair and softly, 
when this world had no more of deeds for 
him to do. Nor may it be said that the 
needy lamented him ; for no needy had he 
left in his own land. And few foes he left 
behind to hate him. 

As to the Maid, she so waxed in loveliness 
and kindness, that it was a year's joy for any 
to have cast eyes upon her in street or on 
field. All wizardry left her since the day of 


her wedding ; yet of wit and wisdom she 
had enough left, and to spare ; for she needed 
no going about, and no guile, any more than 
hard commands, to have her will done. So 
loved she was by all folk, forsooth, that it 
was a mere joy for any to go about her 
errands. To be short, she was the land's 
increase, and the city's safeguard, and the 
bliss of the folk. 

Somewhat, as the days passed, it misgave 
her that she had beguiled the Bear-folk to 
deem her their God ; and she considered 
and thought how she might atone it. 

So the second year after they had come to 
Stark-wall, she went with certain folk to the 
head of the pass that led down to the Bears ; 
and there she stayed the men-at-arms, and 
went on further with a two score of husband- 
men whom she had redeemed from thrall- 
dom in Stark-wall ; and when they were 
hard on the dales of the Bears, she left 
them there in a certain little dale, with their 
wains and horses, and seed-corn, and iron 
tools, and went down all bird-alone to the 
dwelling of those huge men, unguarded now 
by sorcery, and trusting in nought but her 
loveliness and kindness. Clad she was now, 
as when she fled from the Wood beyond the 


World, in a short white coat alone, with 
bare feet and naked arms ; but the said coat 
was now embroidered with the imagery of 
blossoms in silk and gold, and gems, whereas 
now her wizardry had departed from her. 

So she came to the Bears, and they knew 
her at once, and worshipped and blessed her, 
and feared her. But she told them that she 
had a gift for them, and was come to give 
it ; and therewith she told them of the art 
of tillage, and bade them learn it ; and when 
they asked her how they should do so, she 
told them of the men who were abiding 
them in the mountain dale, and bade the 
Bears take them for their brothers and sons 
of the ancient Fathers, and then they should 
be taught of them. This they behight her 
to do, and so she led them to where her 
freedmen lay, whom the Bears received with 
all joy and loving-kindness, and took them 
into their folk. 

So they went back to their dales together ; 
but the Maid went her ways back to her 
men-at-arms and the city of Stark-wall. 

Thereafter she sent more gifts and mes- 
sages to the Bears, but never again went 
herself to see them ; for as good a face as she 
put on it that last time, yet her heart waxed 

249 s 

cold with fear, and it almost seemed to her 
that her Mistress was alive again, and that 
she was escaping from her and plotting 
against her once more. 

As for the Bears, they throve and multi- 
plied ; till at last strife arose great and grim 
betwixt them and other peoples ; for they 
had become mighty in battle : yea, once and 
again they met the host of Stark-wall in 
fight, and overthrew and were overthrown. 
But that was a long while after the Maid had 
passed away. 

Now of Walter and the Maid is no more 
to be told, saving that they begat between 
them goodly sons and fair daughters ; whereof 
came a great lineage in Stark-wall ; which 
lineage was so strong, and endured so long a 
while, that by then it had died out, folk 
had clean forgotten their ancient custom 
of king-making; so that after Walter of 
Langton there was never another king that 
came down to them poor and lonely from 
out of the Mountains of the Bears. 




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